Homeland Security warns small planes are vulnerable to hackers

The Department of Homeland Security is warning small plane pilots that they are a target.

Posted: Jul 30, 2019 7:00 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2019 11:21 AM

Homeland Security has a warning that small airplanes could be hacked, causing you to lose control during flight.

Cyber security experts tell us these hackers could have Huntsville on their radar. They say modern flight systems are vulnerable if someone has access to your plane.

Jeff Clark, the Connectivity Center owner, said they offer something no other company does across the country. That's a simple lock that will keep everyone out of your plane's electronic devices. Clark's company works to sell these safety blocks for electronic devices so no malware can be installed.

"If you want to keep someone out of your house, then you lock the door. If you want to keep someone from connecting to some electronic device thing, number one if you do anything is block access to the port," he said.

Huntsville Cyber Security Company, SENTAR, said hacking is easier than most people think.

"You have a USB stick, which we have all used, and they are plugging it in to a USB port. In that way, they can inject and maybe control the plane itself and maybe produce what's called bad telemetry, and the pilot may crash because he is relying on instruments that's lying to him," said Chandler Hall with SENTAR.

He said learning of Homeland Security's warning should be alarming for all pilots of small planes.

"It was a little alarming when I saw that headline because my brother likes to fly small planes, and I have some other friends that like to fly small planes," he said.

Huntsville might be an even bigger target for cyber terrorists.

"There is a lot of information here where a lot of nation states would like to gain access and do other things," Hall said.

Hall said he hopes anyone in the area who could be susceptible to a breach will look into fixes before it's too late.

"Maybe our local pilots need to be a little bit more on their toes. Maybe they should call the company down the street and lock their ports down when they aren't in the planes," he said.

Clark said many breaches come unintentionally.

"When we are out there in the wide world, we can pick up viruses and things and when you come in and plug it into your computer at work you bypass the network's firewall. You've launched the virus from within the network," Clark said.

The USB port blockers that the company sells range from about $2 to $10. They said it's a small price that could help keep anyone safe.

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