An Android can do just about anything. Well to elaborate, you can do just about anything as long as you have an Android smartphone within your grasps. Sure any user who owns a device that runs this platform knows this but now after the latest hack involving an Android set, no one can argue that this isn’t the case.
What exactly has been hacked? Aircraft controls. Yup, let that sink in a bit before continuing to read the rest of the article. Now breathe a little. A security summit held by the Hack in the Box security firm clearly demonstrated that it was very much possible to take over aircraft control systems with the device and some specifically designed attack coding.
The code was developed by Hugo Teso, a security researcher over at N.Runs and a former airline pilot. The code did take three years to develop, in which Tesla experimented with various software programs. This included purchasing second hand commercial flight system software and hardware online (no surprise there) and then looking for security flaws. Sounds like your run of the mill Android spyware developer alright- -except with much more far reaching results. Of course, the thought that it is possible in itself should be enough to give anyone dealing in aircraft security some nervous twitches.
The code used has been called ‘SIMON’ and the Android app used is called ‘PlaneSploit’ and together they can be used to fully take over flight controls and pilot displays. This then hacked aircrafts speed and course can be changed with the Smartphone’s in built accelerometer. In other words, you can really do whatever you like with the navigation. And if you throw in the threat of terrorism, airplane hijacking, military procedures, and international airspace issues, this could spell disaster for the aviation industry as a whole. The implications haven’t even been realized fully at this point.
Teso also discovered that hacking into aircraft’s communications and then being able to interrupt broadcasts or supply misinformation was really a piece of cake. The main reason for this is that the Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is completely unsecure and vulnerable to hacking attacks. The AirCraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which is responsible for communication between pilots and ground controller is vulnerable to attacks too.
So in other words, with the help of a Samsung Galaxy handset you can potentially bring down an aircraft. Of course, all of the hacked commands can be overridden by a pilot but any disturbance midflight can cause more than a precarious situation. After the Summit, the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the European Aviation Safety Administration were informed and will now more than likely be addressing this issue.
Of course, the hack is unnerving and only goes to further demonstrate how technology is racing far ahead of our own imaginations. The practical and daily uses are many and varied but at the same time, the potential for harm, in the form of security issues, is baffling and hence need to be addressed from every which way possible. Here is to hoping such a dire situation does not actually come to pass.
Natalia David is a tech lover and mobile junkie. She writes for MobiStealth and considers all the latest innovations in the mobile related world personal entertainment. For more details please click here. She tweets @NataliaDavid4.