The Hack in the Box (#HITB2013AMS) security conference in Amsterdam has a very interesting lineup of talks [pdf]. One that jumped out was the Aircraft Hacking: Practical Aero Series presented by Hugo Teso, a security consultant at n.runs in Germany. According to the abstract, “This presentation will be a practical demonstration on how to remotely attack and take full control of an aircraft, exposing some of the results of my three years research on the aviation security field. The attack performed will follow the classical methodology, divided in discovery, information gathering, exploitation and post-exploitation phases. The complete attack will be accomplished remotely, without needing physical access to the target aircraft at any time, and a testing laboratory will be used to attack virtual airplanes systems.
Anyone with the right tools and a little know-how can read and send these ACARS messages. Teso purchased hardware from eBay that provided “actual flight code software” for “training” such as Flight Management System made by Rockwell. He also needed a radio transmitter and explained about software radio systems before the talk. He audited real aircraft code, searching for vulnerabilities to exploit, but used a lab with virtual airplanes as opposed to hijacking an actual jet in flight. Hijacking a real plane during a flight was “too dangerous and unethical.”
Help Net Security was present at the demo and explained:
By taking advantage of two new technologies for the discovery, information gathering and exploitation phases of the attack, and by creating an exploit framework (SIMON) and an Android app (PlaneSploit) that delivers attack messages to the airplanes’ Flight Management Systems (computer unit + control display unit), he demonstrated the terrifying ability to take complete control of aircrafts by making virtual planes “dance to his tune.”
According to Teso’s presentation slides [pdf], the ACARS datalink allowed for “real-time data transmission” and all communications between planes and airports are sent unencrypted. Teso used ACARS to exploit and break into the airplane’s onboard computer system and then upload Flight Management System (FMS) data. FMS could be uploaded by software defined radio and ground service providers.
Full article: Hacker uses an Android to remotely attack and hijack an airplane (Computer World)