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FBI tells airlines to watch for potential Wi-Fi, in-flight entertainment hackers

by Todd Haselton | April 22, 2015April 22, 2015 11:00 am PDT


The FBI and TSA recently issued a warning to airlines that asks them to be vigilant in looking out for folks who might be acting suspicious in trying to access in-flight entertainment systems and Wi-Fi networks for hacking purposes. According to Wired, there isn’t currently a hacking threat against airlines. Instead, the note was issued in response to a report from the Government Accountability Office that warned “interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems.”

Wired said there’s currently no evidence that gaining access to the in-flight entertainment system or Wi-Fi network will give hackers access to the plane’s navigation system, but the FBI apparently wants to make sure hackers aren’t tampering with any systems at all. Just in case.

In its note, the FBI asks airlines to “report any suspicious activity involving travelers connecting unknown cables or wires to the IFE (in-flight entertainment) system or unusual parts of the airplane seat.” Airlines should also report IFE sets that appear to have been tampered with, particularly if the cover has been removed, and “evidence of suspicious behavior concerning aviation wireless signals, including social media messages with threatening references to Onboard Network Systems, ADS-B, ACARS, and Air Traffic Control networks.” Finally, airlines are asked to review in-flight Wi-Fi network logs for suspicious activity.

Travelers shouldn’t worry, these are just precautions the FBI is taking following the report from the Government Accountability Office, which said that, while the FAA has been working on increasing its prevention of cyber-based threats, “significant security control weakness remain that threaten the agency’s ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system.” That warning seems to point more to the FAA’s own computer networks, but paying attention to hackers midflight seems to be a recommendation for one reason or another.

GAO Wired

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...