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8/22/2019
04:30 PM
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Aviation Faces Increasing Cybersecurity Scrutiny

Some aviation experts and security researchers are trying to foster closer alliances for securing airplane networks.

{Continued from Page 1}

Boeing said there's no "quick" patch program for software in the aviation industry, and development of software for planes follows specific regulatory guidelines.

Jeffrey Troy, executive director of the Aviation-ISAC, the official threat intelligence-sharing arm of the industry, describes patching in avionics systems as a "case-by-case" situation. "Every instance of a vulnerability is a unique case," he says. "You also have to understand what the impact is and how to address it based on that impact."

He says aviation companies, when contacted by researchers, listen and then vet the findings. "They go out and conduct tests to validate whether or not the vuln that has been made known can be replicated. And if so, they do their assessments to determine what they need to do," he notes.

It's only a matter of time before Boeing and other aviation industry vendors are forced to find common ground with the researcher community, experts say. The increasingly networked aircraft fleet naturally will open avenues for security holes that need spotting and fixing.

"We've gone literally from having to physically go to planes and their avionics and upload a floppy [disk] for 20 minutes to now updating them over the air," Pen Test Partners' Munro notes. "You get reduced costs, but it [brings] security implications, too."  

And aviation firms have invested large amounts of money in developing safe and secure code, he says. "It will be some time before avionics opens up their source code" to security researchers, though, he says.

Progress, Actually
John Sheehy, IOActive's director of strategic security services, worked with Santamarta on his disclosure with Boeing. He believes some good progress has been made in relationships between researchers and the avionics industry over the past three years.

"Boeing clearly understood what Ruben was going to present [at Black Hat]," Sheehy says. "They did not take any aggressive action to stop us from doing so. I think they understand the value of this kind of research."

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "You Gotta Reach 'Em to Teach 'Em."

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
 

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allenred123
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allenred123,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/23/2019 | 1:33:26 AM
cybersecurity
useful suggestion
john@ylventures.com
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[email protected],
User Rank: Author
8/23/2019 | 7:13:39 PM
Aviation Security Opportunities
Interesting problem space - tough GTM and sales cycle for independent startup, but seems like there is some opportunity for innovation, here.
Avi S
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Avi S,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/30/2019 | 3:39:51 AM
Boeing blames the "pilots" again?
Boeing lost 2 planes and did not disclose 737 MAX alert software issue to FAA for 13 months. 
Only after China had grounded the aircraft, they've published some details of new system requirements for the problematic MCAS software that caused these crashes.

"Our extensive testing confirmed that existing defenses in the broader 787 network prevent the scenarios claimed." 🕵️🤷‍♂️
tdsan
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tdsan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2019 | 9:03:33 PM
Re: Boeing blames the "pilots" again?
Didn't the same thing happen in a movie where the pilot had to land the plane in a river in NY - Sully? In the movie, the panel did not disclose to Sully that it took the pilots 6-7 times during the simulation that they had failed and crashed the plane numerous times in their simulation. 

This does not surprise me, because when the birds hit the engines and the pilot experienced failure, he reacted in the best manner to protect the passengers during a stressful time. In this instance, it took them 13 months to share information with the public about their lack of security testing because they wanted to get their stories right before presenting them to the public. They wanted to find a scapegoat before they brought this to the public's attention. 

From the findings Rapid7 submitted to the airline industry, they should present information much like "Project-Zero - Google's Security Team", they offered their help and they shunned them away like small children. The way to deal with that is to take their findings public so this does not happen again. 
His firm decided not to publicly name the affected vendors since it was an underlying CAN bus issue not specific to the vendors' equipment Kiley had hacked. Even so, he doesn't know whether the vendors actually fixed the flaws he found.
"I let the vendors know what I did with the equipment, and they didn't indicate what they would do or change. They thanked us and sent us along our way," Kiley says.
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