Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

that united story

Gaaah ever since this story came out about a hacker who claimed to have made an airplane fly sideways because it's JUST SO WEIRD. As an avionics engineer... it was so weird I couldn't comment. And then I was nervous to comment because we're all afraid to talk about hackers, and security, and the feds, it's just a mess everywhere.

So I was happy to read on runway girl that Boeing has stepped up to defend its security, maintaining that no, you cannot make an airplane fly sideways from a passenger display port. You cannot get to the airplane's engines or flight control from there. These systems are very separated and I'm happy to see Boeing is using the same good industry standards that I do where I work... of course they are, they helped develop them, just like the rest of us.

The idea of spooling up an engine from a passenger display is kind of like someone claiming they could disable your air conditioner by reprogramming your coffee maker. They're not talking. That's not a thing.

And even if someone disabled something or cut power to a box, here's the thing about airplanes... we think first about things not working all the time. What would happen if a wire broke? Wires were swapped? A box lost power? A box was wrong? And then we test for everything, I have spent hours and hours hanging out inside airplanes on the ground doing interferrence checks to make sure your cell phone or wifi adapater can't go rouge and interferre with anything, ever.

So if some hacker killed power to a cockpit display, there's a standby display getting power off a totally different bus. There's physical separation, bus separation... he'd have to all over the plane, into panels, with lots of tools, to do anything. Not just sitting in his seat. And that's just power - the databuses are just as redundant and separated.

There's not a single ethernet cable running to an engine sending it emails to go faster. there are multiple separate data buses, cross-checked for comparison, from different sources, that all have to agree on what the commands are. and if anything gets weird, airplanes are made so that pilots get to override anything automatic that's happening. in a people vs. computers battle, people get to win on airplanes.

It's not the internet, it's a machine. And anyone doing any of this would have to know a LOT. That scene in "Flightplan" with Jodie Foster rewiring an airplane with just her skillz... no.

And if anything is real... this guys last tweet was joking that he could trigger EICAS system messages, which would be kinda like your kid in the back seat of your car making your "check engine" light go on. You'd sigh, land the airplane and call the maintenance team and it'd be a huge inconvenience. But not unsafe.

All the comments on slashdot are accusing this hacker of just trying to make a name for himself so he can earn more money as a security expert, but the media is still making such a huge deal about airplane hacking. It's just not adding up.
Tags: aviation, computers
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