Air traffic system replaced amid hacking worries

Air traffic system replaced amid hacking worries
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finished replacing the massive computer system that controls U.S. air traffic amid concerns that it might be vulnerable to hackers. 

The nearly $2.5 billion En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system will double the number of flights that can be tracked. It uses nearly two million lines of code to process air traffic data and will serve as a platform for other innovative technologies, the FAA said. 

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“ERAM gives us a big boost in technological horsepower over the system it replaces,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

“This computer system enables each controller to handle more aircraft over a larger area, resulting in increased safety, capacity, and efficiency.” 

The system’s completion coincides with a Government Accountability Office (GAO) probe that found “significant security control weaknesses” in the U.S. air traffic control system that place it at “increased and unnecessary risk.” 

Hackers wishing to exploit the weaknesses might be able to disrupt flight routes, causing potential harm to travelers, according to the probe, released in March. Systems protecting aircraft technology are also vulnerable, according to the GAO. 

The new ERAM system, developed by Lockheed Martin, was first installed in the FAA’s Salt Lake City Center in March 2012. It experienced nearly five years of delays and $370 million in cost overruns, according to airline trade publications. 

The platform replaces a plane tracking system called Host that dated back to the 1960s, according to reports.