Commercial airliners are vulnerable to hackers that have the capability of taking down a plane by commandeering the onboard computers using its Wi-Fi networks, a federal agency announced in a report Tuesday.
A Government Accountability Office report on air traffic control found the Federal Aviation Administration must address several cybersecurity weaknesses as air traffic control systems transition to newer technology. For example, many newer planes -- like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 -- feature cockpits that are connected to the same Wi-Fi systems that passengers use.
"Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors," the report states. "Modern communications technologies, including IP [Internet Protocol] connectivity, are increasingly used in aircraft systems, creating the possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems."
GAO researchers interviewed both cybersecurity and aviation experts to reach their conclusions, which include the possibilities that hackers could commandeer aircraft, infect a plane's computers with a virus to put the safety of a flight at risk, and even fully take over a plane's warning and navigation systems.
Reuters reported that the FAA agrees with the need for concern about potential threats. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said his agency is working with security experts, including the National Security Agency, to identify areas that need changing. "This threat will continue to evolve and it is something that needs to be at the forefront of our thinking," Huerta said at a Senate oversight panel.