A German security researcher has demonstrated how easy it can be to hack into the digital systems of an airliner in flight using the right coding knowledge and hardware that's not hard to get—including a Samsung smartphone.
Hugo Teso presented at the Amsterdam security conference The Hack In The Box. His exploit used more or less readily-available information and electronics. Relying on the fact that two critical aircraft systems use no encryption during their chatter to ground-based servers, Teso was able to hack into the flight control software of an airliner—one that could, theoretically, be in flight. He was able to divert the aircraft's autopilot settings, potentially placing the vehicle at risk of collision, and even pull off stunts like dropping the oxygen masks in the passenger compartment.
Teso's hacking demonstration, like many "white hat" hacks, is intended to prompt the industries concerned to seriously beef up their security before a malicious hacker exploits the same vulnerabilities. The sort of direct hack that Teso used may remind you of the hardware-targeted hacks that are said to have devastated Iran's nuclear production facilities in recent years.
[Image: Flickr user francoisroche]