Hugo Teso:I can hijack a passenger plane with an Android App

Posted on April 14, 2013 12:50 pm

A German security researcher has demonstrated to the world how to take total control of airliners with the help of an Android app that takes advantage of open and insecure air traffic communications systems. Hugo Teso spent over 36 months creating an exploit code framework called SIMON and built the PlaneSploit Android app with which he could remotely attack flight management systems on airplanes, with no physical access required. Once in control, an attacker can alter the course of a plane, set off warning lights and alarms and also crash it. He demonstrated the hijack on virtual airplanes at this years Hack In The Box security conference in Amsterdam on Thursday this week. He simulated an example of a drunken pilot flying over the German capital Berlin, using the accelerometer in his Android device to move the plane around. Remote hijacking is possible because the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast protocol that sends data about aircraft such as identity, position and altitude from on-board transmitters to air traffic controllers is easy to manipulate.

Teso also used another protocol, Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System to deliver messages between aircraft and controllers over radio and satellite that he found is also open and insecure. He used ADS-B to pick the airliner he wanted to attack and ACARS to identify the type of computer aboard the plane and he was able to craft malicious messages that could be used to control the plane with the help of the SIMON framework implanted in the flight management system. Also, he deliberately coded the SIMON malware so that it only works on virtual aircraft but cannot be used on real ones. The German researcher said that the attack only works while the plane is on autopilot and not while it is under manual control. Teso concluded that the framework is nearly impossible to detect once deployed in the flight management system and it can be used to upload flight plans, issue specific commands among other things.

Contador Harrison