4 Reasons Why No One Is Going To "Hack" Your Airplane
If you’ve walked past a television in the past 24 hours, glanced at a newspaper, checked twitter, or generally just lifted your head up from your pillow in any capacity, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this f*cking crackpot ranting and raving about how he’s hacked into an airplane from his passenger seat using little more than a bit of tech you can buy at Best Buy.
Here’s why you shouldn’t ever ever ever be worried about this type of nut job on your flight:
1: This guy is full of sh*t.
At every point of contact the media has had with Chris Roberts, he’s claimed that he’s been able to use the exact same type of “hack” across an entire range of the planes that are currently in the sky today, including, but not limited to: Airbus A320, Boeing 737, Boeing 757, etc. Each of these planes is designed to use radically different systems for entertainment and aviation. EVEN IF some nutjob—again, definitely not this guy—managed to gain access to the actual avionics systems of a plane, his method would not be an across the board “solution.”
2: He didn’t actually hack into the control systems of the plane.
Despite what Good Morning America is peddling there has been NO EVIDENCE aside from hearsay that Roberts has actually “hacked" into anything more than the in-flight entertainment system. From all legitimate reports so far, this guy has accessed little more than what your cable guy has access to when he comes over to troubleshoot your parents DVR. Every entertainment system available today anywhere has some sort of developers panel to allow remote troubleshooting. Airplanes are no different, except that their system is closed and fully locked away from the technology that the pilots use (Which, btw is on triple redundancy preventing any possible Hollywoodesque situations).
Avionics expert and veteran pilot, Captain Tom Bunn summed it up in an analogy to us over email: "If I am driving my car, with my hands on the wheel, and my grandson in his booster seat in the back is playing with his iPad, even if he is playing "Grand Theft Auto," are his inputs going to wrestle the wheel out of my hand? No."
3: Ever heard of fly by wire? Most jumbo jets don’t have it.
Even if we assume a hyper unrealistic worst-case scenario wherein someone does get into the plane’s avionics, he’s not going to be capable of taking control of the plane. While a handful of passenger jets have fly by wire, the vast majority still have physical linkages in place for all the relevant controls. What’s left for a hacker to do is toy with navigational controls. Most commercial pilots senior enough to fly the big planes are ex-air force. You don’t think they know how to navigate if a compass goes out?
4: The FBI are taking this very seriously (which is good!)
Even the most whacked out “Cybersecurity Experts” who claim to have access to a flying plane’s aeronautics, full of shit or not, HAVE to be taken seriously. I mean, you can barely tweet a scummy sentence at POTUS without a knock on your door. If they discover that this guy is anything more than full of it, you can bet that the holes which he was allegedly able to exploit will be plugged before your next flight.