Connector Corner

October 13, 2017

In Flight Entertainment—What Will the Leaders do to prevent Cyber Attacks

Can you imagine sitting on a plane and having all your favorite movies, music, games and TV shows in one spot? With the rise of IFE—in-flight entertainment, large data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the airlines will provide more customizable and personalized entertainment solutions for each passenger. Before one even reaches his/her seat, the IFE system will be adjusted according to the passenger’s preferences. This technologically advanced and e—sophisticated systems also come at a cost. The more data is stored on a cloud and the more devices are interconnected to enable these entertaining personalized features, the easier it becomes for cybercriminals to steal the valuable and private information. To prevent the e—criminal activities, IFE providers need to assess all the potential risks, sometimes involving the entire IT teams across the multiple organizations—from the component suppliers, subcontractors and IFE vendors, to the individual airlines.

“How to hack Panasonic in—Flight Entertainment IFE,” “Hacker Demonstrates How Easy In—Flight Entertainment Systems Can Be Hacked,” “Panasonic Avionics IFE systems: How serious are the vulnerabilities?”, are just a few headlines that come up when a simple Google IFE search is performed. As a frequent traveler and a professional in the avionics industry, it is worrisome to see these headlines come up first. IOActive, a data and research—oriented security company states that “several cybersecurity vulnerabilities found in Panasonic Avionics In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems.” These systems are used by many of the largest carriers such as United, AA, AirFrance, Singapore, and Emirates. According to the company statement, “the vulnerabilities in these systems could allow hackers to 'hijack' passengers' in-flight displays and, in some instances, potentially access their credit card information. These vulnerabilities could also potentially act as an entry point to the wider network, depending on system configurations on an airplane.”

The two largest fears when it comes to the advanced, cloud controlled IFE solutions are the safety of the passengers’ privacy information and the fear of the airplane safety, states Don Buchman, vice president of the satellite—based IFE connectivity provider ViaSat.

As far as the safety of the aircraft goes, all the providers have strongly rejected all the advices coming from the “moral” hackers who have successfully hacked the IFE systems. The famous incident happened when Ruben Santamarta, senior consultant of IOActive, hacked the IFE system on his Warsaw—Dubai flight and made serious accusations against Panasonic in his blog. The provider rejected all the accusations publicly— “The allegations made to the press by IOActive regarding in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems manufactured by Panasonic Avionics Corporation (“Panasonic”) contain a number of inaccurate and misleading statements about Panasonic’s systems. These misstatements and inaccuracies call into question many of the assertions made by IOActive.”

In addition, “IOActive has chosen to make highly misleading and inflammatory statements suggesting that hackers could “theoretically” gain access to flight controls by hacking into Panasonic’s IFE systems. Panasonic strenuously disagrees with any suggestion by IOActive that such an attack is possible, and calls upon IOActive to clarify that its research does not support any such inference.” Despite all the rejections, Mr. Santamarta refuses to believe the morality behind Panasonic’s statement and strongly urges the passengers and the airlines to protect their information as much as possible. “New air-to-ground technologies will equip modern aircraft with a new set of capabilities. However, in terms of security, this poses a major challenge,” he states. “IFEs, electronic flight bags, satellite communication systems... The e-aircraft is exposing a significant attack surface as more and more devices onboard are now connected.”

It is the newer, IoT empowered airplanes that have a higher chance of being impacted by the cyberattacks. It will take the entire aviation and supply chain industries’ efforts to prevent hazardous attacks. From safe and efficient component building by the suppliers such as TE Connectivity, Souriau, Radiall or Amphenol to hazardless product implementation between the IFE vendors—Thales, Zodiac, Panasonic and the individual airlines. About Air Electro, Inc.

As a component distributor, Air Electro, Inc. strives to provide its connector buyers, engineers and corporate customers with the best quality products on the market. Air Electro supports and provides the end users with the newest IFE Composite Connector selection by TE Connectivity. As TE’s preferred authorized distributor, Air Electro stocks and ships D369, Shielded D369 and DMC—MD Single Module, 4th generation cabin connectors directly from its facility in Chatsworth, CA. For more details, please visit the website at: www.airelectro.com

Shop for: D369, Shielded D369 and DMC—MD Single Module here

Works Cited

Guest. (2016). Press Statement: Panasonic hits back at IFE system security claims. Runaway Girl Network.

Reals, K. (2017). Inflight Entertainment Providers Face Cybersecurity Threat. Aviation Week Network.

 

 

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