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Is It Possible to Hack into a Plane’s Wi-Fi?

in-flight wi-fi hack

It seems these days that where there’s technology, there are hackers, and according to Berlin-based hacker Ruben Santamarta, a plane’s wi-fi connection is no different.

Santamarta is a consultant with a cyber security firm called IOActive, and has discovered that the same devices used to access airline satellite networks are able to be easily hacked. In fact, the research that he and his team conducted concluded that “100 percent of the devices could be abused.”

He decoded firmware from manufacturers like Harris, Cobham, and Iridium, and found that many devices used the same “hard-coded” log-in credentials, which means that if you could hack into one, you could hack into many. If a hacker made their way into this type of equipment, they could potentially modify or disrupt satellite communication, safety systems, and/or navigation systems.

The good news is that right now, Santamarta has only been able to hack into this equipment in a controlled environment (like a laboratory) and believes that it would be harder to carry out a breach in the real world. However, he wants to make people aware of the potential, so he’s sharing his findings at this year’s Black Hat gathering for hackers and cybersecurity researchers in Las Vegas.

In a CNET article, he says, “These devices are wide open. The goal of this talk is to help change that situation.”

On the other hand, aviation expert Marisa Garcia doesn’t believe a plane’s wi-fi can be hacked. In a Yahoo Tech article, she says the systems that Santamarta hacked are extravagant data management systems, not flight controls – and even the airlines can’t make much sense of all the data.

“Though digital has been entering the skies slowly, it has only done so after critical issues which could compromise the aircraft have been thoroughly analyzed, tested, and satisfactorily addressed,” she says.

What are your thoughts?