Ruben Santamarta, a cyber security researcher, says he has figured out a way to hack the satellite communications equipment on commercial jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems. If this claim is confirmed, it will most likely prompt a review of aircraft security.
Mr. Santamarta said he discovered the vulnerabilities by “reverse engineering” also known as decoding, which is a highly specialized software known as firmware, used to operate communications equipment made by Cobham Plc, Harris Corp, EchoStar Corp’s Hughes Network Systems, Iridium Communications Inc and Japan Radio Co Ltd.
In a worst case scenario, a hacker could use a plane’s WiFi signal or inflight entertainment system to hack into its avionics equipment, potentially disrupting or modifying satellite communications, which could interfere with the aircraft’s navigation and safety systems, Santamarta said.
Santamarta acknowledged that his hacks have only been tested in controlled environments, such as in IOActive’s Madrid laboratory, and they might be more difficult to replicate in the real world. Mr. Santamarta said he decided to go public to encourage manufacturers to fix what he calls risky security flaws.
I’m no techy, so I don’t know much about the specs involved in Santamarta’s claims, but I don’t think this poses any immediate threats to flying. I doubt a hacker would want to kill himself, unless he is suicidal, and even then the risk of that is still pretty low.