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Inflight entertainment exposes airliners to hackers: US report

[WASHINGTON] Hackers could exploit inflight entertainment systems to sabotage the cockpit electronics of the growing number of commercial airliners connected to the Internet, a US government report says.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified inflight cybersecurity as "an increasingly important issue" that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is just starting to address in earnest.

"Modern communications technologies, including IP connectivity, are increasingly used in aircraft systems, creating the possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems," it said.

In the past, the electronics used to control and navigate aircraft - known as avionics - have functioned autonomously, said the GAO, the audit and investigative arm of the US Congress.

"However, according to FAA and experts we spoke to, IP networking may allow an attacker to gain remote access to avionics systems and compromise them," the GAO said.

In theory, firewalls ought to protect avionics "from intrusion by cabin-system users, such as passengers who use in-flight entertainment systems."

But four cybersecurity experts told the GAO that firewalls, being software components, can be hacked and circumvented "like any other software."

The FAA has yet to develop regulations to make "cybersecurity assurance" for avionics part of its process for certifying new aircraft.

However, FAA officials told the GAO that cybersecurity is an increasingly important issue and that it is shifting its certification focus to address it.


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