Skip to main content

Flying the flag

By [email protected] - 26th June 2015 - 08:48

With exported goods and services accounting for around a third of Britainâs GDP, readers will be heartened to read elsewhere in this issue of the biggest yet UK Pavilion at Septemberâs INTERGEO expo in Stuttgart. Hosted by GEOConnexion Magazine, the export-oriented showcase has doubled in size year-on-year since 2013 and provides an affordable and prime-sited platform for British businesses to present geospatial products and services to an expected 16,000 visitors from more than 90 countries. â©

Those arriving at Stuttgart airport, as elsewhere, will doubtless have travelled in the hope that todayâs avionics are immune to malicious in-flight interference. And while our review in the last issue (and continued online in this issue) raised the issue of GNSS signal jamming and spoofing as a growing threat, air travel has been regarded as somewhat less vulnerable due to the level of redundancy built into airborne navigation systems. â©

Worrying then, to hear that one Chris Roberts, a prominent hacker and founder of Denver-based cyber intelligence firm One World Labs, is currently the subject of an FBI probe into his own claim that, as a passenger, he hacked into Boeing 737 and Airbus avionics on multiple occasions between 2011 and 2014. The Trojan Horse employed for the purpose was no more than a laptop and an Ethernet connection to an electronics unit for the in-flight entertainment system that can be found under certain passenger seats and which provides a pathway into critical onboard systems including navigation aids. â©

According to Roberts, when interviewed by Fox News, the hack is fairly complex but do-able. If so, will it mean that laptops, tablets and even smartphones become even more suspect carry-on items, with all the burdensome checks this might entail? â©

Of course, it would help if there was a set of standard tests that helped users select the best GNSS equipment for an application based on its degree of protection against jamming, spoofing and hacking. It would both act as a deterrent and provide reassurance to travellers everywhere.

Download a PDF of this article