Tags: Emerging Threats | FBI | airlines | hackers | Wi-Fi

FBI Warns Airlines to Watch For In-Flight Hackers

By    |   Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:26 PM

A week after a man posted a message on Twitter suggesting he could access a plane's computer systems through its Wi-Fi network, the FBI has warned airlines to watch out for hackers.

Security expert Chris Roberts boarded a United Airlines flight in Denver on April 15 and tweeted that he could gain access to the plane's network and deploy the oxygen masks.
The FBI got word of the tweet and removed Roberts from the plane when it landed hours later in Syracuse, New York. Roberts' electronic equipment, including a laptop, iPad and several flash drives, were seized. He was questioned for four hours before being allowed to leave.

Roberts is now banned from all United Airlines flights.

Wired is reporting the FBI has warned airlines to keep their eyes peeled for hackers trying to gain access to planes' in-flight networks via Wi-Fi. In theory, a hacker could potentially access flight controls from his or her seat in the cabin.

According to Wired, the FBI directed flight crews to:
  • Report any suspicious activity involving travelers connecting unknown cables or wires to the IFE system or unusual parts of the airplane seat.
  • Report any evidence of suspicious behavior following a flight, such as IFE systems that show evidence of tampering or the forced removal of covers to network connection ports.
  • Report any evidence of suspicious behavior concerning aviation wireless signals, including social media messages with threatening references to Onboard Network Systems, ADS-B, ACARS, and Air Traffic Control networks.
  • Review network logs from aircraft to ensure any suspicious activity, such as network scanning or intrusion attempts, is captured for further analysis.
Roberts said he did not gain access to the United flight's network through the plane's Wi-Fi, but that his tweet was intended to warn airlines of the vulnerability.

He has spent years investigating airline security, and has gotten ahold of publicly available manuals, diagrams, and blueprints of certain in-flight systems that he discovered are linked to a plane's Wi-Fi, according to another Wired report.

Roberts has contacted Airbus and Boeing about vulnerabilities he had discovered and has met with the FBI on a handful of occasions to show them his findings.

"I tweeted out something in jest with a smiley face, and I'm guessing that was probably the final straw for at least one area of the federal authorities," Roberts told Wired, referring his April 15 tweet.

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A week after a man posted a message on Twitter suggesting he could access a plane's computer systems through its WiFi network, the FBI has warned airlines to watch out for hackers.
FBI, airlines, hackers, Wi-Fi
424
2015-26-22
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:26 PM
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