Topic of the Week: Hacking the 787


Word is out that there might be a way to hack into the 787 and do terrible things. Anyone think this is a real threat? Should we be concerned?

24 comments on “Topic of the Week: Hacking the 787

  1. Anyone can say something to get they 15 minutes of fame in the media, proving it true is another matter. This will just get people checking things out and fixing any issues they find.

    I would think the ‘bad guys’ would want to hack into the Pentagon computer or major bank computers and cause problems for the millions and not just 200 people on an airplane and anything they hit.

    1. Yeah. Those pesky Limey newspapers, and those good-for-nothing Cambridge University boffins – what the f*&@ would they know?!

      More concerned as to whether these chips are in the drone aircraft that are currently used to spread freedom around the world. It also sounds very ‘Microsoft’ in nature (even though these are Intel chips) – you know, release a piece of crap software, wait for people to tell you where all the crap bits are.

    2. I would think the ?bad guys? would want to hack into the Pentagon computer or major bank computers and cause problems for the millions and not just 200 people on an airplane and anything they hit.

      I see your point, but a 787 crash COULD have a devistating effect on not just Boeing, but all airlines as well as the broader econemy.

  2. I think this is the key passage

    “Connecting to the chips would be comparatively easy over the internet if the chip is wired to an internet-enabled controller, he said. Normally a special cryptographic key would be needed, but the back door does not need an encrypted channel.”

    Are these planes (drones and commercial aircraft) really connected to the Internet? I highly doubt it since most of these things talk with the ground via dedicated satellite connections. It’s not like they’re dialing up AOL every time.

  3. In order to hack into this chip, you have to have access to it. Is the control system on a 787 connected to the internet? I doubt it.

    1. we’re short on details on how this works or doesn’t work, but generically speaking, something doesn’t have to be on the internet to be vulnerable. USB drives and the like can get viruses to anywhere. Ask Iran about that.

  4. As with most media reports they are using a “localizing” tactic to generate interest. People don’t really care as much about the military getting hacked because they figure the military can take care of itself (previous incidents to the contrary of course). By throwing the 787 into the mix they are trying to make the issue a bigger one to the larger community. It can often be used in less than ethical manners of course.

    What I find interesting is the selection of the airframe for this. Airbus uses similar chips in their A380, but I guess since British taxpayers foot some of the bill for that bird they would rather point out the flaw in a bird that the American taxpayers have funded.

      1. I realize you are just being a troll, but at the same time I happen to be equally European and “American” so you can stop trying to make my comment sound partisan.

  5. With enough planning and effort, anything is possible. However, doesn’t seem likely. Somehow, doubt 787 is too much more susceptible than any other modern airliner which uses radio frequencies for all kinds of things…

  6. Methinks it’s much ado about nothing. After all, if military computers can be compromised by this back door – why hasn’t it been done yet? Surely a computer genius somewhere would have tried and succeeded by now.

  7. Sure, this is just what the flying public needs. They don’t understand what keeps the airplanes up in the air and the have no idea how the internet or hacking works. So, along comes some mainstream media reporter trying to sell their story and this speculation as to what might be possible an I might actually get a whole seat myself on my next flight :-)

  8. I don’t have the training or experience to evaluate this claim. However, if you (and the Guardian) conclude that it is true, discussing it in such public forums demonstrates extremely poor judgment. Even in cultures that enjoy an ‘open’ press, some subjects are probably best left unpublished.

  9. Says who?
    On what actual basis?
    Have you researched the subject on web sites that have industry standards?
    Such airplanes have many security and security features, including separation and firewalls, albeit they have to be done properly.
    Talk is cheap – produce facts?

  10. Perhaps Southwest has figured out how to hack into 787’s through IAH’s com system which explains the real reason United pulled the plug on Houston – Auckland.

  11. I, like another poster, feel this might just be a European scare tactic to discount the efficacy of the 787 while the A380 is causing a lot of embarrassment with wing crack issues.

  12. While the chip does have some functionality that could allow a certain amount of reprogramming, that functionality is disabled by default and protected by a custom passcode set by each customer. Further, physical access to the chip is necessary. –It’s not possible to do this via the internet.

    Should Boeing consider this a potential risk and explore just how possible it is that the functionality could be abused? Sure. But should people panic and start claiming that terrorists can reprogram a Boeing aircraft over the internet? Definitely not.

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Cranky Flier