In-flight wifi risks airline security, says US government

The US Government Accountability Office has concluded that in-flight wifi runs the risk of increasing cyber-security threats against airlines, aircraft and air-traffic control information systems.

In a report released by the government authority, it highlights the lack of cyber-security strategy and threat model in place by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) with regards to its air-traffic control systems. Subsequently, it looks at modern aircraft, which are increasingly connected to the internet, as a weak link in the security chain.

“Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the internet. This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems,” it said in an official statement. “As part of the aircraft certification process, FAA’s Office of Safety currently certified new interconnected systems through rules for specific aircraft and has started reviewing rules for certifying the cybersecurity of all new aircraft systems.”

It appears to be an alarming admission from the Office, when considering the perennial physical safety and security procedures surrounding the aviation industry that a distinct lack of a cyber-security strategy exists, particularly in an age of such rapid technological innovation.

The office went on to confirm that the FAA is making advances towards more comprehensive cyber-security assurance.

“FAA is making strides to address the challenge of clarifying cyber-security roles and responsibilities among multiple FAA offices, such as creating a Cyber Security Steering Committee (the Committee) to oversee information security,” it said.

Recent research by Honeywell highlighted how consumer demand is driving in-flight wifi availability. It covered demographics in the USA, UK and Singapore and found that 81% of all respondents believe that wireless connectivity should be available for all flights, either domestic or international. 42% of those surveyed would give up their preferred seat, 30% would give up the ability to recline their seat, and 26% would give up 6 inches of leg room.

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