The next you are on a plane and you hear your captain give an announcement, think twice because it might be a hacker controlling your flight.
In-Flight entertainment systems of some of the most popular airline such as Emirates, United, Virgin, and even Qatar, have been found to have some dangerous loopholes that could enable hackers to hijack certain flight systems and even take full control of a plane.
According to information released by IOActive, the Panasonic Avionics In-Flight Entertainment systems installed by some of the most popular airlines, 13 in number, have vulnerabilities that can easily be manipulated by hackers, and the risks are terrifying.
The loopholes give hackers them the ability to alter flight details such as map routes, speed stats, attitude values, and even steal credit card details.
IOActive’s Ruben Santamarta managed to take control of a flight’s systems and changed such information like altitude and location, cabin lighting and even make his own announcements that seemed to be made by the captain.
“These hacks can make an unsettling experience for passengers,” said Santamarta. “I have no reason to think these systems have the ability to resist an organised attack by skilled malicious hackers. It only boils down to how skilled the hacker is. But speaking from a purely technical perspective, it is absolutely possible.”
Apart from all these issues, the researcher said it is also possible for hackers to access credit card details of travellers used in automatic payment systems.
These weaknesses were forwarded to Panasonic in March last year, and the researcher took 1 and half years to make the information public. This was to give the company time to take control of the situation.
Emirate is closely working with Panasonic to make sure the issues are resolved and the system is updated. “The safety of our passenger and crew on board is a priority and we will make sure it is not concerned.”