- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Security experts have one more threat to worry about: hackers who can disrupt a passenger jet’s satellite communications equipment through WiFi and inflight entertainment systems.

Ruben Santamarta, a cybersecurity expert who works at the security firm IOActive, plans to demonstrate the process at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, Reuters reported. Mr. Santamarta’s presentation at the annual convention will happen on Thursday, Aug. 6.

“These devices are wide open. The goal of this talk is to help change that situation,” Mr. Santamarta, 32, told Reuters.


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The implications of Mr. Santamarta’s research, if true, are huge. If he successfully demonstrates the procedure, then it would theoretically mean that hackers could alter a passenger jet’s flight path or disrupt its safety systems.

Mr. Santamarta says he found bugs in the firmware of five companies that sell communications equipment: Cobham Plc, Harris Corp, EchoStar Corp’s Hughes Network Systems, Iridium Communications Inc and Japan Radio Co Ltd.

Cobham Plc responded to Reuters for its story, saying that hackers could not use WiFi signals to interfere with critical systems that rely on satellite communications for navigation and safety. Representatives for Harris Corp, Hughes Network Systems and Iridium told the news service that they reviewed Mr. Santamarta’s research, but downplayed his claims.

“We concluded that the risk of compromise is very small,” Harris spokesman Jim Burke told Reuters.