Boeing Dreamliner could be vulnerable to hackers

The FAA warns that the electronics Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner jet could be vulnerable to tampering.

The electronics of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner jet could be vulnerable to hackers due to the way critical flight systems are linked with those used by passengers, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has warned.

The 787 "allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane," the FAA said in the warning, which has been posted on Cryptome.org.

The design of those electronic systems "may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane."

The document doesn't have a response from Boeing, but a company spokeswoman told Wired magazine it was aware of the problem and had been working on it for several years with the FAA.

The FAA document includes comments on the issue from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and competitor Airbus.

ALPA said Boeing should find a way to allow the flight crew to disable the passengers' ability to connect to the systems. In response, the FAA said it preferred not to dictate specific design features but let Boeing determine the appropriate security protections.

Airbus, whose comments support Boeing, said that physically separating the passenger and critical networks -- one sure-fire method of stopping tampering -- means that passengers may not then have access to satellite and other network connections. The company argued that a minimum amount of communication between the networks is necessary.

The FAA responded that airlines could then use technology "which allows sharing of resources without allowing unauthorized access and inappropriate actions to systems and data."

Boeing has sold more than more than 740 Dreamliners so far. The midsize plane, of which Qantas has 65 on order, is scheduled for a test flight early this year, with a full rollout of the planes later this year, according to Boeing.

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Jeremy Kirk

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