FAA says Hijack-a-jet app works only on simulator

Tthe Federal Aviation Administration says the exploit won't work on a real jet.

When a security researcher announced this week that he'd written an Android app that allowed him to hijack a jet with his Samsung Galaxy smartphone, he acknowledged an important caveat to his exploit: It had been tested only on a simulator.

That turned out to be a very important qualifier in the exploit of the researcher, Hugo Teso, who works for N.Runs in Germany and is also a pilot certified to fly commercial aircraft .

It seems that while Tesso's  Android app may work on a navigation system simulator, it won't work on a system that's been cockpit certified for the real world, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"The FAA has determined that the hacking technique described during a recent computer security conference does not pose a flight safety concern because it does not work on certified flight hardware," the agency said in a statement released to the media.

App misleads nav system

Teso demonstrated his PlaneSploit app Wednesday at the Hack In A Box conference being held in Amsterdam. He showed--on a PC running training software for the navigation system used in commercial jets--how he could alter the heading, altitude, and speed of a plane by using his smartphone app and an antenna.

He also demonstrated how to feed false information to cockpit displays in a plane and take command of some of aircraft's systems, allowing him to perform tasks like deploying all the oxygen masks for its passengers.

During Teso's presentation PDF at the conference, he said he's been studying ways to exploit aircraft flight management systems (FMS) for three years. Those systems are the computer-human interface in a plane used by pilots for navigation, flight planning, performance computations, and such.

One of Teso's claims was that he could hack into the FMS and control a plane's autopilot. The FAA discounted that claim.

"The described technique cannot engage or control the aircraft's autopilot system using the FMS or prevent a pilot from overriding the autopilot," the agency stated. "Therefore, a hacker cannot obtain 'full control of an aircraft' as the technology consultant has claimed."

The FAA's overseas counterpart--the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)--made a similar assessment of Teso's efforts.

"There are major differences between a PC-based training FMS software and an embedded FMS software," the agency told The Inquirer. "In particular, the FMS simulation software does not have the same overwriting protection and redundancies that is included in the certified flight software."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags appssecuritysoftwareU.S. Federal Aviation Administration

More about FAAFederal Aviation AdministrationGalaxySamsung

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John P. Mello Jr.

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts