Aviation has indeed gone through a remarkable evolution over the years. One of the more apparent ways is through the avionics industry, which has grown from purely manual ways of maneuvering to wholly integrated systems, such as the connected airplane.
Indeed, it’s an innovation that’s helped with many of the limitations previous technology went through, such as not readily knowing when a part is worse for wear, or the best route to take in adverse weather conditions. But while this may offer more efficient operations, it’s also opened up the industry to another kind of threat: security breaches.
Technology is a double-edged sword, as any advancements that spring from it can be subjected to a cyber attack. And if you’re dealing with connected systems, this may pose a problem—particularly a danger of hijacking. That said, we take a look further into the implications connectedness has on cybersecurity:
How does connected aircraft work?
In a nutshell, connected aircraft make use of broadband and satellite services to let both the airlines and operators see the health of their avionics systems and components while in flight, according to Avionics Today. Aviation Week expounds on this further by noting that they do this by an Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System for operational centers, and controller-pilot datalink communications for air traffic control.
This capacity allows them to collect data, which can be used for real-time troubleshooting and proactively create solutions and innovations for their fleets. And since data can also be shared between aircraft, the connected aircraft system can arguably make processes safer and more efficient, as one could detect if there’s something wrong with a neighboring plane earlier, and strategize accordingly.
However, this has also rendered connected aircraft susceptible to a broader range of cyber attacks, as these connections extend beyond the control room and into the apparatus itself. It also means that securing connected aircraft will be a bit more complicated—and that a little slip-up might have some dangerous implications.
What can be done right now?
Of course, to solve a problem, one needs to have an understanding of it. Knowing the potential dangers connected aircraft pose to cybersecurity can help companies craft better security systems for that express purpose. And fortunately, there has been more awareness regarding the issue among company heads, as well as efforts to make cybersecurity for such aircraft become a priority.
These initiatives include some legislative measures—such as the draft FAA reauthorization legislation—as well as the emergence of those offering to give aviation cybersecurity the holistic boost they need. There is also talk about sending data to ground control via broadband so that a designated security operations center could monitor the data for intrusions in real time.
However, as with all other solutions, sending data to the ground still has its fill of limitations, which can hopefully be remedied by onboard detection. For now, however, it might take a while before such tech or systems can be refined. But while securing avionics and connected aircraft may take a while to hone and implement, hopefully in the future we could see such systems fully realized.
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