FAA convenes panel to thwart airline cyberattacks

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing a set of cybersecurity protections intended to defend aircrafts from hackers.

The agency has convened a committee composed of pilots and representatives from plane manufacturers and parts suppliers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The group was scheduled to hold its first meeting this month, although its activities are private.

{mosads}The panel’s formation comes amid growing fears that both planes and air traffic control systems are vulnerable to hackers.

Just a week ago, Polish airline LOT had to ground several planes after a cyberattack took out its computer system that issues flight plans. The airline warned that anyone could be hit by such an attack.

Indeed, U.S. watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office warned in March that cyber saboteurs seeking to disrupt U.S. flight routes would find “significant security control weaknesses” in the FAA’s systems.

The FAA itself has acknowledged that hackers were able to spread malicious software through its system earlier this year.

The FAA’s newly-formed panel is attempting to identify the seven or eight areas most vulnerable to digital assaults and then create international design and testing standards to thwart those attacks, Jens Hennig, the panel’s co-chair, told the Journal.

“The industry needs a set of graduated requirements,” he said.

Air traffic control systems, and their frequent digital communications with airplanes on the ground, are seen as an attractive hacking target. It’s an easy way for digital invaders to alter a plane’s electronics or flight plan, experts say.  

Protecting that connection will likely be a focus of the FAA’s group.

“What is not being done today, is to have a view of aircraft operations in their entirety,” Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, told the Journal.


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