NewsLocal News


Government warns technology in small planes could be hacked

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 21:02:43-04

You’ve heard of hackers trying to gain access to credit card information and your Social Security number, but what about hacking small planes?

That’s the latest warning coming from the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday after a cybersecurity firm discovered planes with modern technology could be vulnerable.

When it comes to the technology in Santa Ynez pilot Robert Perry’s plane, it’s about as modern as you can get.

Perry’s plane has several screens that can sync to his iPad and he can even access WiFi from the air.

“Because this is not a certified airplane like a Cessna, Piper or Beachcraft, I can put newer technology aircraft instruments that are not certified instruments that cost an arm and a leg and I can have all the modern technology that an airliner has at a lot less cost,” Perry explained.

Now small planes with technology like Perry’s are part of a Department of Homeland Security warning.

“So what they’re worried about is someone actually placing a device on your CAN, or controller area network, that would override information, take control of information, take control of the aircraft or disrupt the sensors and actuators,” explained Bill Britton, Director of the California Cybersecurity Institute at Cal Poly.

That means the plane could display the wrong elevation or even say it’s out of gas when it’s not.

“You wouldn’t know if that was affected until something starts to not look right. What they’re really looking at here is how integrated is that operating network on your airframe,” Britton said.

Perry says he’s not concerned, as he argues pilots are initially taught not to rely on the digital devices.

“If someone literally hacked all my instruments and all the instruments went haywire, I would simply turn the electrical system off and still have an engine and be able to fly the airplane as long as you can fly visually,” Perry explained.

Britton says it’s going to take manufacturers creating these technologies with security features already on them to prevent things like this from happening.

Older planes that use analog controls are not affected by this potential hack.