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Boeing 787 May Be Vulnerable to Hacker Attack 332

Posted by Zonk
from the does-anyone-speak-l33t dept.
palegray.net writes "An article posted yesterday on Wired.com notes that 'Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet may have a serious security vulnerability in its onboard computer networks that could allow passengers to access the plane's control systems, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.' They're already working on solutions to the problem - including placing more physical separation between aircraft networks and implementing more robust software-based firewalls."
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Boeing 787 May Be Vulnerable to Hacker Attack

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  • No more playing MS Flight Sim.
  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spalti (210617) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:35PM (#21926538) Homepage
    Why aren't both networks physically completely seperated from each other?
    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:39PM (#21926594)
      Why can you remotely control aircraft systems at all? There should be no network equipment to compromise in the first place!
      • Re:I don't get it... (Score:5, Informative)

        by badasscat (563442) <`basscadet75' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:47PM (#21926698)
        Why can you remotely control aircraft systems at all? There should be no network equipment to compromise in the first place!

        The 787 is fly by wire, like most new aircraft designs. It's all computer controlled, not mechanical.

        My guess is this [aviationtoday.com] - the "common core system" designed by Honeywell - has something to do with the various systems being connected. This is a system designed to simplify the airplane's various systems and reduce the number of separate systems (which means fewer failure points - usually a good thing in engineering). I do believe Boeing when they say that there are built-in separations and that the two systems are not completely tied together, but obviously it wasn't enough for the FAA. So they're fixing it. Nothing really all that unusual about a new airplane design; there are always various issues that need to be addressed before first flight.
        • by fartingfool (1208968) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:10PM (#21926916)

          My guess is it has to do with controlling the actual system for the passenger use. Pilots gotta have access to the No Smoking sign switch for example. So without any real technical background in how these systems work, I'd say they were simply given a switch to turn access on or off etc, and that simply meant some sort of basic connection had to be issued between the cockpit systems and passenger entertainment systems.

          The FAA report doesn't say exactly what the connection is between the systems, it just says there is a connection. My guess is it's the FAA over-hyping a situation, or someone else, to try and get these birds as safe as possible. Although I would agree that the passenger system should be as isolated as possible, and if control of these systems is needed, just run separate lines that link only to that system, even if it is basically pointless if the connection I assume it is really is that simple. I guess i welcome my first post to /. too after reading it for a year or so and keepin my thoughts to myself =D

          • by rlk (1089) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:49PM (#21927272)
            "Not completely connected" is a very strange phrase. I could say that my laptop is "not completely connected" to the internet because there's a router between them. But either there's a connection between the two networks or there isn't. I don't know what it means to be connected at some points and not at others.

            The pilots certainly do need access to some of the cabin systems, for the seatbelt sign, for example. They may also need to be able to turn the cabin network off altogether. But those switches should have no signal connection of any kind to the maintenance and monitoring/control systems. The two networks should be physically partititioned.

            The way I read the article, there really are some connections between the networks (my guess is that it was simply cheaper or more convenient to link them), and the FAA's not happy with that state of affairs. I can't say I blame them.

            Somehow I have a suspicion that someone will crack this sooner or later, and the TSA will react by banning use of laptops or something equally foolish, rather than addressing the more basic fact that the plane's systems have not been hardened appropriately (in this case, by being physically partitioned).
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              "Not completely connected" is a very strange phrase... either there's a connection between the two networks or there isn't. I don't know what it means to be connected at some points and not at others.

              There could be a data diode between them. That would allow the passengers to see flight path and sensor statistics and hear the cabin radio, and allow the cabin lights and indicators to be controlled from the cockpit side without being physically isolated, but nothing on the cabin side could influence the cockpit side. They might also want to electrically isolate the two sides to block power surges from reaching the avionics (although they should already be hardened enough to handle that, because lightni

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ZorinLynx (31751)
              >The pilots certainly do need access to some of the cabin systems, for the seatbelt sign, for example.

              Why does there have to be a "network" for this at all? What happened to a simple *switch*, *light bulbs*, and wires to connect them to the battery? It's reliable, works well, and cheap. And you don't have to worry about passengers hacking the jet through the seatbelt light.

              Why are companies so obsessed with making things needlessly complicated these days? I'm a geek, and love computers. But there are som
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Angostura (703910)
                So, to be clear. Every seat has a seat-back screen in front of it, capable of displaying messages - but you would prefer a separate wire going to every seat to power a 'fasten your seatbelts' bulb?

                Uh, OK.
                • by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Sunday January 06, 2008 @06:30AM (#21931056) Homepage

                  So, to be clear. Every seat has a seat-back screen in front of it, capable of displaying messages - but you would prefer a separate wire going to every seat to power a 'fasten your seatbelts' bulb?

                  Uh, OK.
                  I'm in favor of a full fledged IRC server so that the pilots can talk to the passengers. After all if you have a network why not use it. /join UA435
                  --- Welcome to Flight United Airlines 435 to Tokyo
                  --- Please read the safety card in the back of the seat on fron of you

                  <seat44G> HOW DOES THIS THING WORK?
                  <seat112A> LOL n00b !!!
                  <Pilot> Please fasten your seatbelts

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by AlecC (512609)
                Cost and complexity. The wiring loom for the aircraft is becoming heavy and complex. The reason the A380 was nearly two years late was because of problems in the wiring loom, cause by incompatible CAD systems between France and Germany. The fact that it took so long to correct an (inexcusable) cockup in the wiring shows how complicated the damn things are. The 747 is said to have 500km of wire in it: that weighs, and weight is fuel consumption, cost, and CO2 emission.
          • by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @08:06PM (#21928368) Journal
            Queue up 11,000 A/C posts about H4X0RZ Cr45h1n6 for REALZ Do0DEZ!.

            This is not a "Windows vs Linux" thing. These are highly specialized data networks designed specifically for aircraft. The typical running life of a big jet is some 40 years or more - the idea of a consumer O/S such as Windows (or even Linux) being suitable for such a situation is simply stupid. Everything is coded in firmware, micro-processor based, with a likelyhood of actually crashing accidentally being somewhat less likely than getting struck by lightning on a sunny day while sitting in the cellar of your 4-story house.

            Not bloody likely.

            But, actual, malicious attack? Possible - and if there was *ANY* connection between the passenger data networks and the main control networks, that's an issue that must be addressed.

            Most likely, the FAA found some part that was connected to both networks, that itself was not capable of actually transmitting data. But they're being car eful, as is their job, since lives are on the line.

            Go FAA!
        • My guess is this - the "common core system" designed by Honeywell

          The 787 common core system is designed by Smith's Areospace [aviationtoday.com], not Honeywell. Honeywell performed so badly on the 777 program that they were relegated to the 2nd tier. I have heard that their FMS is late for the 787 as well.

        • Good guess, but its more likely to be the Electronic Flight Bag which would be linked into the administrative network for map updates and day to day information. That article from 2005 doesn't mention the EFB provider is Astronautics which did the 777's. http://www.astronautics.com/new/PIDDemo/Piddemo.html [astronautics.com]
        • I don't agree, running everything through the same box does not simplify things from an engineering POV, it makes things a lot more complicated. Robust design is redundant, distributed, and independent. All of your nuts in one basket is not. Maybe from a systems engineering POV it might make it easier to see everything that is going on, but you could just model that if you wanted. It would certainly make it easier to change your mind about some engineering decisions (or possibly inject multiple fuckups
    • by Nibbler999 (1101055) <tom_atkinson@@@fsfe...org> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:39PM (#21926598) Homepage
      Probably to save weight on cabling/hardware.
    • Re:I don't get it... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by creimer (824291) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:41PM (#21926626) Homepage
      Maybe because their network designer has a civilian background instead of a military background?
      • Because a civilian couldn't figure out the potential risk? Oh, apparently not. I especially liked the "There are places where the networks are not touching, and there are places where they are" comment from the spokesgimp.
        • by badfish99 (826052)
          The need for "in-flight testing of the safeguards" sounds like fun too. Perhaps it is to see whether the firewalls still work under reduced air pressure.
          • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot.garyolson@org> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @06:28PM (#21927620) Journal
            Exactly. The lower air pressure on the ether in the net could cause the firewall filter to actually pass packets as a result of reverse osmosis. This could be quite evident in streaming data which could possibly sublimate into a data cloud -- for which the filter was not designed. Albeit, the temperature will have to be increased in the firewall; or a longer timeout will need to be configured to allow for the higher altitude.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Alsee (515537)
              If you increase the temperature in the firewall you have to be very careful not to melt the Black ICE behind it.

              -
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bepe86 (945139)
          The reason for that is simple. Techs in the military (at least in the nation where I'm hired, are practically brainwashed into seperating every system regardless of classification, to prevent hazards like this. It's really a royal pain in the ass, especially when you have to deploy 4 or 5 parallell networks using fibre optics only to take it down in a week or two, when one network could've served it all, but it is totally understandable, and I think that a lot of civilian businesses has a lot to learn when
    • by dunezone (899268) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:41PM (#21926628) Journal
      Exactly, who the hell thought that it would be a good idea to allow the passenger network and pilot network system to even communicate with each other.

      Oh wait I got it, what if terrorist took over the cabin, but then a passenger(Justin Long) who is a master hacker controls the plane from his seat using his cell phone, and safely lands the plane but after he flipped it a few times so the terrorist would be knocked unconscious. Who has Bruckheimer's phone number I have an idea.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Oh wait I got it, what if terrorist took over the cabin, but then a passenger(Justin Long) who is a master hacker controls the plane from his seat using his cell phone, and safely lands the plane but after he flipped it a few times so the terrorist would be knocked unconscious. Who has Bruckheimer's phone number I have an idea.
        Wrong, wrong, wrong! Everyone knows all the l33t ub3r h4ck3r$ use MacBooks.

        Now, maybe, if the cell phone is a iPhone... It may be plausible....
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Except when trying to take over the plane to protect it from the hijackers. In that case, Justin Long would use his cracked iPhone with an ssh terminal on it. Duh.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jamstar7 (694492)
        More like, the 12 year old kid with his pocket videogame accidently hacking the network while playing a flight sim game and doing some stunt flying with the plane. Can you say ''ooppss!'?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Naughty Bob (1004174)
      It is mandatory that the avionics are physically disconnected from other systems. The story is a consequence of the Wired writers misunderstanding the FAA's report. A comment (by 'Vorsicht') in the article's comments points this out....
    • by Com2Kid (142006) <com2kidSPAMLESS@gmail.com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:57PM (#21926790) Homepage Journal
      This article is FUD. I worked on the 787 avionics during my internship in summer 2006 on the exact system the article is talking about. It has been awhile so I don't know what is still under NDA and what isn't, but anyone who has taken a basic networking class and who knows how the network is setup will have no worries at all.

      (stupid NDA...)
      • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @06:13PM (#21927482) Homepage
        Claiming that you're under an NDA made me think you were completely BSing and trying to raise your e-coolness level.

        Then I saw your sig and realized you must be a college student studying engineering/networking/compsci. Sorry I ever doubted you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ckedge (192996)
        So you're saying that the networks ARE connected, and it's only the routers and the "networking" that "separate" them.

        [extreme sarcasm] Routers and switches have never had vulnerabilities before... I'm not worried at all!!![/e]

        Please leave the mission-critical security analysis to the rest of us, okay NEWB?
      • Re:I don't get it... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nonsequitor (893813) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @08:38PM (#21928588)
        The article is not FUD, I don't know where you worked, but having worked on embedded systems for several planes, this one included, though indirectly since I ended up writing about 1/3 of the code base for the electronic flight bag for the 777, which is being used in the 787. I've also worked on systems for the new A380, all at various companies which Boeing and or EADS subcontract to for the various widgets that make up a plane.

        However, the system integrators are Boeing engineers at the manufacturing plant in Everett, WA. The decision to connect internal subnets to a live network would most likely be done at that level, by people who are not security minded, but have to make things as easy as possible for the people who buy these systems and have to use them, the airlines. The amount of users that have legitimate purposes for accessing these systems and communicating with them from the airline's network at the airport (another security risk) is very diverse. Many of which have to be assumed to be completely technologically illiterate.

        This combined with the fact that everything is ALWAYS LATE, so its rushed rather than designed correct the first time, leaves a non-zero probability that the network can become compromised from an attack which exploits vulnerabilities in these machines segregating the plane's systems from the passenger systems. Odds are its either a common industrial partitioned operating system (fancy talk for sandboxes, which may or may not be escapable), or a common one like a licensed and modified embedded windows, or embedded linux or BSD, depending on the vendor.

        I know for a fact though that some of those systems are embedded linux and advertised as such. What if one of those systems were designed on a 2.5 kernel? Impossible you say? There is a risk, dismissing it as FUD does not make it less of a risk.
    • Re:I don't get it... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pchan- (118053) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:00PM (#21926806) Journal
      Modern cars have two or more control networks. The class-1 network controls things vital to the car operation and safety such as the anti-lock brakes, air bags, and steering. The class-2 network(s) are for things such as rolling down your windows, controlling your CD changer, and turning on your headlights. NOTHING is allowed on the class-1 net without rigorous validation. If your satellite radio module goes bad, it won't stop you from being able to safely control your vehicle. And these are just control networks, they are not allowing hundreds of users to bring in their personal computers and an Internet connection.

      Reading the story, it seemed like they wanted the airplane's maintenance systems to communicate with ground crews over the Internet, as well the aircraft reporting status to the airline while in flight. Personally, I'm uncomfortable with any part of the aircraft's vital systems being on the Internet.
    • by Linker3000 (626634) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:16PM (#21926958) Journal
      A simple solution would be to use Token Ring for the avionics and plain old 100BaseT for the passenger areas - and then send to Guantanamo anyone Googling 'madge' or 'wtf is 802.5'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dkf (304284)

      Why aren't both networks physically completely seperated from each other?

      You want some kind of bridge from one to the other - lots of aircraft can show a whole range of flight data to passengers ("ooh, we've got a headwind over Greenland today! Guess we won't be early after all.") - but that should be strictly one-way. Which is probably the problem; there shouldn't be any way for anyone in the passenger cabin to issue instructions to the plane contrary to those from the flight deck, but I bet they found they couldn't prove it...

    • Act of Faith (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Considering Boeing is the world's leader in passenger aircraft, how about we just give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't retards?

      "Sure, Boeing's spent a decade designing this plane with thousands of engineers, but I read a short Slashdot story summary and now I'm going to decree I know more than them!"
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:35PM (#21926544)
    ... is one that's physically isolated. I can't think of one good reason why passengers should have any access whatsoever to command/control networks used by the airplane.
    • Yeah, WTF!? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:47PM (#21926688)
      What kind of an idiot would put the flight control systems and the on-board entertainment/voip/net/pr0n on the same physical network? Were they trying to save weight/money by running only one cable through the plane?
      I recall reading about MS stuffing their software into cars (that probably evolved into Ford's SYNC) and even there the MS crap and the engine management systems were completely separate.
    • by multi io (640409)
      I can't think of one good reason why passengers should have any access whatsoever to command/control networks used by the airplane.

      Accessing current position/altitude/velocity/flight direction/weather information/outboard camera images from the flight entertainment system (not sure that's a "good" reason, but it's a reason...).

      On the plus side, no passenger has to install flight simulator programs on his/her laptop anymore when he or she can just as well use the real thing.

    • by vertinox (846076)
      Air Marshalls?

      But it would make more sense if the FAA could just take over the planes controls from the ground.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      ... is one that's physically isolated.

      I work in ATC and I have to say it is difficult to do that in a totally thorough way. For example your flight control system might need information on the flight plans being used by the aircraft. These might be generated off line by a variety of people using different sources of information. You don't want type that stuff in again to get it into the aircraft so you might have some kind of interface for doing that. The interface will be made deliberately crude, and thus less subject to the transmission of

  • by maxrate (886773) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:36PM (#21926564)
    I'm not an avionics engineer - however, even in a small hotel I service, we keep the guest network and the hotel/admin network seperate. The only common hardware is the AC power and the modem that has a /28 assigned to it.
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:45PM (#21926666) Homepage Journal
      Note: IAAFMAT(I am a former military avionics technician) and I ask, "why the hell did that happen?" The flight control subsystems should share only a power bus with the non-critical subsystems(if even that). My tinfoil-hat theory is that the control system was made to be hackable so that the government could take control of a hijacked aircraft to prevent another 9/11 (or to cause another 9/11, depending on your point of view).
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ddrichardson (869910)

        I am a Military Avionics Technician and I must admit that I find this report confusing.

        The only thing that is being suggested is that the passenger system could corrupt the flight systems which I find unlikely - it's chalk and cheese with regard to how these systems communicate. The only way I can see a problem is if one of the Avionic bus controllers is swamped by requests from one of the passenger systems.

        I know this isn't a military design but surely the flight systems such as flight management and nav

    • by McGiraf (196030)
      How important is the weight of the cabling in the daily operation of this hotel?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      I'm not an avionics engineer - however, even in a small hotel I service, we keep the guest network and the hotel/admin network seperate. The only common hardware is the AC power and the modem that has a /28 assigned to it.

      Yes, but you are competent.

    • by Spazmania (174582)
      The only common hardware is the AC power and the modem that has a /28 assigned to it.

      Which means that if a customer in his room hacks the modem, he has access to your admin network.

      No doubt this is the problem with Boeing's system. The radio is on the safety network but there's a gateway attached to both the safety and passenger networks that rebroadcasts the radio traffic so the passengers can listen in. If devices on the passenger network can send packets to that gateway then it is a potential point of br
  • WHAT?!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by koh (124962)
    Nowadays you cannot get on a plane carrying any kind of gel or liquid. Hell, you there are places where you can't even get on board with a lighter. However, I've always been able to travel with my laptop (don't want "luggage management" to break it), provided that I prove it's a real laptop (i.e. turn it on).

    And now this? What does that mean? I won't be able to board a plane with my laptop again, that's what that means. And who can I blame? The frightened Homeland Security officers who try to no end to sani
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dwater (72834)

      Nowadays you cannot get on a plane carrying any kind of gel or liquid.
      Not correct (unless things have changed in the past week). There are restrictions, but you can carry them on. From memory, liquids/gels have to be in containers of less than 100ml, and be placed in a clear plastic bag (I forget the volume of the bag, but they're not big and give them out at the security check point).
    • by Daimanta (1140543)

      And where's my flying car?
      It was going to be delivered to you today, but someone hacked it and now it's gone :(
    • As described on a Seinfeld episode:


      GEORGE: When are they gonna have the flying cars, already?
      JERRY: Yeah, they have been promising that for a while..
      GEORGE: Years. When we were kids, they made it seem like it was right around the corner.
      JERRY: I think Ed Begley Jr. has one.
      GEORGE: No. That's just electric.
      JERRY: What about Harrison Ford? He had one in, uh, Blade Runner. That was a cool one.
      GEORGE: (Sarcastic) What's the competition, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
      JERRY: Well, what do you think the big holdup is?
      GE
    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Nowadays you cannot get on a plane carrying any kind of gel or liquid
      Cannot or should not? Last time I flew, I did not bother to put my toothpaste in a transparent baggie, and the scanner operator did not find it in my hand baggage -- or if he did see it, he did not care.
  • Madness (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UESMark (678941)
    This is pretty much the exact type of situation they invented red/black networks for. I can't imagine how any design for a passenger accessible network wouldn't use completely segregated networks for a)passenger use, b)flight logistics and maintenance, and c)actual flight control operations. And given the giant nightmarish spiderweb that aircraft wiring harnesses tend to be I'm guessing it will be a non-trivial task to implement it now, even ignoring the software and systems redesigns that would be required
  • who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by f1055man (951955) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:48PM (#21926702)
    There are a few million easier ways to bring down an aircraft (or kill thousands and cause panic if that's your thing). Yes this is idiocy in engineering, but considering all the other threats I don't think it's way up the list. Ultimately, we aren't dead yet because there just aren't that many intelligent people that want to kill us, cause it just isn't that hard to pull off.
  • by Protonk (599901) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:51PM (#21926734) Homepage
    I am not an avionics engineer, but I worked with electrical and electronic systems on nuclear power plants, and we had a pretty strict segregation between different types of systems--and with 0 connection between a critical system (power sensing, for example) and a non-critical system (Some water level management). That's not even COUNTING peripheral systems (computers on the local netowrk for email/ppt/xls).

    My thought is that some asshole at boeing decided to save some money on cable runs and ginned up an explanation of how software segregation would serve as an adequate barrier between flight critical systems and passenger systems. They never learn.
    • My thought is that some asshole at boeing decided to save some money on cable runs

      While I completely agree, designers are always under pressure to reduce the amount of wiring looms - they add a surptising amount of weight thereby decreasing fuel economy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Protonk (599901)
        Right. I also posted a link later that showed that I was overestimating the seperation required between critical systems and non-critical systems and among critical systems. That being said, I don't feel that most of the decisions to skimp on safety measures are taken by engineers, they are taken by management over the protests of engineers. In my experience, engineers tend to overdo it. :)
  • by poor_boi (548340) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:52PM (#21926748)
    The article doesn't specify how the networks are connected. It could be something fairly innocuous like sharing the same power source. I seriously doubt they put the passenger internet access on the same packet-switched network as flight control. But who knows...
    • I seriously doubt they put the passenger internet access on the same packet-switched network as flight control.

      One thing which might happen is that they will have (say) five networks for carrying their critical data. They design them to be independent, run them along different paths etc. Then they say you know, there is this other network which is used to carry the sat phones or something, wouldn't it be good if we could use that as a kind of ultimate fallback? So then you have a dependency on a network which is used for something else. Not really an important dependency because you don't intend to rely on it. But

  • by Aaron Isotton (958761) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:52PM (#21926750)
    If what TFA claims is really true, i.e. that the passenger network is physically connected to the control and navigation system, then someone should get fired for this.

    The control and navigation system of an airplane is one of the most critical networks possible; the lives of hundreds of passengers (and potentially of thousands of people on the ground) depend on its correct functioning. There are not many more critical networks than that, except maybe control systems for weapons, nuclear plants and some factory control systems.

    Even the worst sysadmin out there knows that you do not physically connect such a highly sensitive, highly critical network to something crappy like the in-flight passenger entertainment network.

    Why should the two networks should be connected at all? To tell the passengers the current speed of the plane?

    The XBox was hacked. The playstation was hacked. DVDs were hacked. HD-DVD was hacked. Pretty much anything out there was hacked if someone had an interest in it (and mostly the interest wasn't commercial, just "for fun"). Even if they do aren't "completely connected" as Boeing claims, the danger of it being hacked is very real. On one hand you are not allowed to use your mobile phone on a plane, and on the other you can play with a network which is attached to the navigation and control system? Come on.
    • There are not many more critical networks than that, except maybe control systems for weapons, nuclear plants and some factory control systems.

      Actually you can scratch nuclear plants off that list. While it is perhaps possible to imagine compromised software to result in damage to a nuclear plant ( and even that is a stretch since operators could still shut it down by cutting the power to electromagnetically suspended controll rods ), it is extremely unlikely to result in harm to humans, since even a meltdo

    • The equipment in question, the Electronic Flight Bag, was designed for the 777, which had no passenger network and not created with security in mind.
    • Pretty much anything out there was hacked if someone had an interest in it (and mostly the interest wasn't commercial, just "for fun").

      What is worse is that after 7+ hours on a transatlantic flight just about anything will look interesting.
    • by VENONA (902751)
      "If what TFA claims is really true, i.e. that the passenger network is physically connected to the control and navigation system, then someone should get fired for this."

      If you meant that in an 'out of a cannon' sense, then I'd agree. But there's a weakness at the FAA as well. I checked the FAA doc linked from TFA (the cryptome.org mirror, actually), and found this:

      "Because of this new passenger connectivity, the proposed
      data network design and integration may result in security
      vulnerabilities from intentio
  • The best hardware firewall is air. Air between the electrical conductors of each network.
  • by alegrepublic (83799) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:57PM (#21926782)
    My guess is that the navigation and control network is connected to the Internet for one of the following reasons:
    • If the plane deviates from the flight plan, access to Google Maps may become handy to plan a new route
    • While on autopilot, access to certain web sites may provide some entertainment to the captain, who usually is a lonely man
    • Given the bad quality of many onboard speakers, announcements from the cockpit can be emailed or IM'ed to passengers
    • Hacker intrusion may be a better excuse than malfunctioning engine as the reason for a plane crash
    • No more planes grounded due to lack of pilot operating manual, as it could be easily downloaded from the Internet
    I am sure there are many other good reasons to connect the navigation network to the Internet, so this list is not exhaustive.
    • All of those but the second-last one are very simply dealt with. If they really want to give the pilots access to the Internet, fine, they just give them a terminal separate from all the navigation and controls which is on a different physical network. The reasons you listed for having an Internet connection available are good, but they don't require connecting the navigation and control network to the Internet.
  • Aviation software (Score:5, Informative)

    by shawkin (165588) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:00PM (#21926804)
    The flight control and avionics networks as well as the hardware are separate from the passenger network.
    The concern is that a separate network of maintenance and some limited flight information data share the same up/down links as the passenger network. The FAA notice is to demonstrate to the FAA that there can be no interference between the maintenance and flight information data and the passenger network.
    Even if the maintenance and flight information data were compromised, at worst this would mean that the operating history of the aircraft is not accurate. This is a big deal but not something that will lead to in flight failure.
    An additional requirement of the FAA notice is to prohibit future passenger services without testing for interference and security.
  • This [faa.gov][PDF] seems to be a document developed in order to address software/hardware partition requirements AMONG flight critical components. It is interesting to see how much is able to be shared, even on a single processor.

    [[WARNING!!! PDF!!]] :)
    • The summary is misleading, I believe the equipment in question is not safety critical but does involve the navigation system. It would be DO-178B level C and/or E, and following ARINC 659(?) guidelines for a partitioned operating system.
      • by Protonk (599901)
        You're the boss, boss. I really know nothing about the classification systems/nomenclature for avionics.
        • I saw this on Slashdot and thought, "HEY, I think I worked on that!" Wow, that company was a trip, and all those numbers get mixed up in my head. It was either an RTCA created spec like the DO-178B software development guidelines for process quality, which is lengthy and can be extensively audited for compliance. Or one of the ARINC ones.
  • by nonsequitor (893813) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:03PM (#21926836)
    http://www.astronautics.com/new/PIDDemo/Piddemo.html [astronautics.com]

    With 2 of those in the cockpit, one for pilot, one for copilot, each running 2 Operating Systems Linux/Windows, and all networked together since each box has 6 network interfaces on it. The thing would be a field day for hackers. While they were designing it a bunch of the consultants helping with the coding were ranting about possible security, but were ignored.

    I can't go into specifics because of my NDA, but considering it was 4 years ago I worked on it, I doubt that is still in force. Though I believe I can say I worked on it, and that information is all publicly available.

  • I used to think this was the kind of thing that could only happen in crappy tech-horror movies like that new "Untraceable" flick. I'm going to get a smarmy "told you so" call from my cousin if she hears about this--I'd told her that no (automobile) control system in the real world would be reachable through standard networking protocols.
    • I just saw a trailer for "Untraceable". What really bothered me was the voice-over saying that the things in there were really possible.

      I'm willing to go along with a lot for the sake of a story, such as believing in the Tron de-rezzing machine, or that any hacker in the world looks like Sandra Bullock.

      Just don't go scare-mongering like that, or I'll have to sic my velociraptors on you.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:19PM (#21926994) Homepage Journal
    Did you READ the report? I did. It doesn't say anything is unsafe. What it says is there are unique architectures in the systems that put them at odds with CFR 14 regulations compliance whether they present an actual or potential danger or not. Furthermore there's a comment in the report which states that Airbus objects to the regulatory findings on the basis that the 'standard' is too high level to offer any concrete value for implementation or compliance.

    Like any other IT security audit - compliance doesn't mean security it means compliance. And in the cases where there are deviations from the standard, the system has to be able to speak to that deviation and address it or contest it.
    • by hyades1 (1149581)
      When systems are speaking to deviations, but software engineers apparently aren't speaking to regulators, I think there's some cause for concern.
  • Do even need hackers? the on-board entertainment system on some plans have very poor software on them and there have been story on Slashdot about how easy it is to crash them.
    http://blogs.csoonline.com/node/151 [csoonline.com]
    http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/20/2231228 [slashdot.org]
    http://www.gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=1134 [gregladen.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is it just me, or does this make Boeing (or at least this spokeswoman in the article) sound like a real grade A moron?

    The choice quotes to me were the article's quote that the solution involves some separation of networks, known as 'air gaps', and software firewalls. And the choice quote straight from the spokewoman from Boeing: "There are places where the networks are not touching, and there are places where they are".

    OK, so what
  • by IchBinEinPenguin (589252) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:45PM (#21927236)
    ... It looks like you're trying to take over the flight controls ...

    Or, for a more unix-y flavour...

    # cat /dev/random > /dev/aileron
  • Geez, don't you people watch BSG? I can't believe I was the only one to get the reference.
  • by hpa (7948) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @08:20PM (#21928444) Homepage
    Back in college, 15 years ago now, I was hanging out on one of the networking Usenet groups when someone asked whether or not laptops supported Token Ring. The answer, from many sources, was that you could get PCMCIA cards for them (built-in networking wasn't common in that era), but that they would be much more expensive than Ethernet. We got the response that the original poster was an engineer with Boeing, he was researching passenger networking, and "we can't use Ethernet because it is not real-time enough for fly by wire." (The fly-by-wire system of the 777 is indeed based on Token Ring; since then the aviation industry has developed a spec fly-by-wire-capable Ethernet which the 787 uses.)

    So there definitely was some notion already back then to tie the passenger networking into the same system as the fly-by-wire. Needless to say, the group (including yours truly, an undergraduate college student) responded with disbelief, and until today I thought they would have scrapped that idea ten times over before ever getting close to an aircraft. Apparently that optimistic view was totally wrong.

    (Note: it is possible to have *one-way* airgap security, which would provide, say, navigation information to the passenger network while physically eliminating the possibility of interference in the other direction. All it takes is one-way communications hardware. Needless to say, it's pretty obvious from the vagueness that they're not doing that -- they would have stated so in no uncertain terms.)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

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