Internet-Connected Aircraft Potentially Subject to Hack Attacks

We keep hearing about new and different ways that data can be hacked in the online and wireless world. And, generally speaking, our concern tends to be that our personally identifiable information may be stolen and misused. But that may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the negative consequences of hack attacks.

Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) now is concerned about the security of modern aircraft that are more and more dependent on the Internet, as reported by The Guardian. According to a recent GAO report: “Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the Internet. This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems.”

And the report goes on to state that cybersecurity experts interviewed by the GAO believe that “Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors.”

So connecting the dots, the GAO report appears to be saying that there exists the possibility of a flight being brought down by malicious hackers. If this truly is a possibility, all best efforts should be made to minimize this risk.

While the GAO report lauds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for improvements in cybersecurity policies, it nevertheless states that there is the “opportunity for further action.” With that being the case, further action should be taken forthwith.

Having personally identifiable information hacked is negative, but the potential of a hack attack bringing down an aircraft is truly unacceptable.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.