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Boeing Dreamliner could be vulnerable to hackers, FAA warns

It points to the linking of critical flight systems with services for passengers

By Jeremy Kirk
January 7, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - The electronics of The Boeing Co.'s new 787 Dreamliner jet could be vulnerable to hackers because of the way critical flight systems are linked with services available to passengers, the Federal Aviation Administration has warned.

The 787 aircraft "allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane," the FAA said in the warning, which has been posted on the Web site.

The design of those electronic systems "may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane," according to the FAA warning.

The document doesn't have a response from Boeing, but a company spokeswoman told Wired magazine that Boeing was aware of the problem and had been working on it for several years with the FAA.

The FAA document includes comments on the issue from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and competing aircraft maker Airbus SAS.

ALPA said Boeing should find a way to allow flight crews to disable the passengers' ability to connect to the systems. In response, the FAA said it did not want to dictate specific design features and preferred to let Boeing determine the appropriate security protections.

Airbus, whose comments support Boeing, said that physically separating the passenger and flight networks -- one surefire method of stopping tampering -- means that passengers may not then have access to satellite and other network connections. The company argued that a minimum amount of communication between the networks is necessary.

The FAA responded that airlines could then use technology "which allows sharing of resources without allowing unauthorized access and inappropriate actions to systems and data."

Boeing has sold more than 740 Dreamliners so far. The midsize plane is scheduled for a test flight early this year, with a full rollout due later this year, according to Boeing's Web site.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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