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IT security consultant & commercial pilot demonstrates airliner hijack via Android app


A security consultant & commercial pilot speaking at the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam yesterday demonstrated a way to take control of airliners using an Android app. reports (via Techmeme) that Hugo Teso combined his IT and pilot expertise to demonstrate in a virtual environment how the app could exploit two elderly forms of radio data communication to upload data into the Flight Management System. This data can include both specific commands, which the auto-pilot would then execute, and updated flight plans, which would allow an attacker to direct the aircraft to the destination of their choice …

Here are some of the functions Teso showed to the HITBSecConf Amsterdam audience:

  • Please go here: A way of interacting with the plane where the user can dynamically tap locations on the map and change the plane’s course.
  • Define area: Set detailed filters related to the airplane, for example activate something when a plane is in the area of X kilometers or when it starts flying on a predefined altitude.
  • Visit ground: Crash the airplane.
  • Kiss off: Remove itself from the system.
  • Be punckish: A theatric way of alerting the pilots that something is seriously wrong – lights start flashing and alarms start buzzing.

Teso deliberately limited his system to operate only in a virtual environment, but claims that the exploits he used would work equally well in the real world. He says that he has had a positive response from the aviation industry and that the vulnerabilities he exploited will be be easy to patch in modern aircraft.

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