At the beginning of last year, airlines such as United, American, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue all experienced flight delays or cancellations due to computer system malfunctions. While no information has been released confirming the compromise of these systems, it is possible that hackers infiltrated the systems looking for weaknesses.
In 2015, United banned security researcher Chris Roberts after he suggested evidence that an individual could control a flights digital system from their seat with as little as a laptop computer. While United deemed these statements were impossible, a report delivered by the Government Accountability Office issued a warning that increasingly connected systems on planes could greater the chance of cyberattacks.
As Federal Aviation Administration technology modernizes and becomes similar to modern computer networks, “it’s vulnerable to the same threats seen in other industries and to a wider range of attackers with the knowledge necessary to inflict damage,” says Tim Erlin, senior director of IT security and risk strategist at the security firm Tripwire.
Airlines are taking precautions by being more mindful of potential threats and how to prevent them. Last year United became the first major airline to launch a bug bounty program, rewarding hackers who report security flaws in the company’s systems.