Can airplanes be hacked? This question poses a real concern at a time when headlines about cybersecurity breaches are common and not just a plotline for a blockbuster movie.
The aviation sector is increasingly reliant on digital systems, encompassing everything from cockpit avionics to passenger service databases, air traffic control communications, and even the infrastructure of airports. As such, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated.
While aviation has benefited from this technology in terms of efficiency and safety, there are also concerns around the vulnerability of aircraft to cyberattacks in the digital age.
The aviation industry faces a range of hacker threats that vary in complexity and potential impact. Data breaches, where cybercriminals target personal information stored by airlines and airports, are one of the most common. This data, which may include passenger names, contact information and payment details, can be used for identity theft and financial fraud.
One notable case was the 2020 easyJet data breach where approximately nine million customers were affected, and the credit card details of 2,208 people, including CVV numbers, were compromised.
The incident, considered a sophisticated cyberattack, occurred between October 17, 2019, and March 4, 2020. easyJet disclosed the attack publicly in May 2020 and customers were warned of the risk of phishing attacks using the stolen data.
When making the news public, the airline told the BBC that an investigation suggested hackers were targeting “company intellectual property” rather than attempting to steal customer data.
Following the breach, there were reports of credit card fraud, and a class-action lawsuit worth £18 billion ($22 million) was filed against the airline. However, in November 2023 it was reported that the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had abandoned the…