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Air Traffic System Vulnerable to Cyber Attack

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air traffic controller

An air traffic controller looks examines a monitor in the control tower at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ.

Credit: The Associated Press

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology uses global positioning system signals to continuously broadcast a plane's identity, ground position, altitude, and velocity to networks of ground stations and other nearby aircraft. ADS-B transmits information in unencrypted 112-bit bursts, which makes the system simple and inexpensive, but also very vulnerable, according to U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology researchers.

The researchers, led by Donald McCallie, Jonathan Butts, and Robert Mills, say that unencrypted signals could be intercepted and spoofed by hackers. The vulnerabilities the team has identified "could have disastrous consequences including confusion, aircraft groundings, even plane crashes if exploited by adversaries," the researchers say.

"We're aware of the research undertaken by the U.S. Air Force and have been working for some time with U.K. and European authorities and agencies to understand and mitigate the issues," says Brendan Kelly with Britain's National Air Traffic Services.

From New Scientist
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