US Air Traffic Control Systems under Attack and Hacked
Throughout this decade, it's been typical for civilian air-traffic computer networks to be hacked multiple times. In fact, according to a recent government report, one particularly devastating assault caused an Alaskan air-traffic data system to be partially shutdown.
The report, which was published by the Transportation Department's inspector general this Wednesday, cautioned that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) modernization efforts are ironically introducing new vulnerabilities to their air-traffic data systems. Regardless, the FAA plans to spend around $20 billion to upgrade its networks over the next decade and a half.
Even airport crucial air traffic systems vulnerable to attack
Most of the identified FAA hackings involved email systems, internal and external websites, and administrative networks that manage electric power and air-traffic flow. Moreover, recent security examinations have exposed 763 high-risk vulnerabilities that could allow hackers entry from one susceptible network to another.
The breach proliferated from administration networks to air-traffic computer networks, which compelled the FAA to turn off part of the air-traffic data systems in Alaska. FAA Spokeswoman Laura Brown assures that the hacker assault only affected the local administrative system that supplies weather and flight information to pilots of small, non-commercial-sized aircrafts.
Then again, Assistant Inspector General Rebecca Leng insists that the FAA's growing dependence on the Internet is particularly troublesome during this time when the country is facing mounting threats from complex, nation-state-sponsored cyber terrorists.
Core Security Technologies Vice-President Tom Kellerman even compared the dangers quoted by the above report to the TV show "24", in which hackers hijack the FAA's networked air-traffic data system to crash planes. Considering the growing trend of hackers attacking FAA network vulnerabilities, his statement may not be far off the mark.
In fact, last month, the Wall Street Journal reported a similar systems breach on an Air Force base. Intelligence officials were distressed by the cyber attack because it can potentially be used by terrorists to hamper the function of air-traffic control in various important government installations.