Cyberattacks endanger airlines more than terrorism, say experts

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Cyberattacks now form the second biggest threat to aviation, according to Australian security researchers.

Speaking at the AVSEC aviation security conference in Camnberra this week, Pure Hacking chief technology officer Ty Miller said that only natural disasters were more dangerous, with even terrorism posing less of a risk.

"There is no doubt that targeted hacking attacks are on the rise, however sophisticated conspiracies to steal data and takeover networks from either nation state, terrorist or individual are occurring more rapidly across the board in every industry," he said.

"The issue with the aviation sector is that it implicitly relies on systems that require a highly secure, safe environment."

Recently, said Miller, his company performed a scheduled penetration test against an airline network in the aviation industry. And with literally thousands of machines or devices accessible, he says, he only needed to hack one to begin escalating his privileges. He was able, he says, to capture credit cards, documents, plans, communications and databases.

"The next generation of cyber threats may directly affect aviation equipment, not simply stealing credit cards and denying travellers access to online booking sites," Miller warns.

"For the future, cyber-threats will be more diversified and take the form of multi-stage and multi-dimensional attacks that utilise and target a variety of attack tools and technologies. For example, the latest generation of web worms uses a variety of different zero-day exploits, propagation methods, and payloads to inflict physical damage."