The US Department of Transportation Agency and its European counterparts have clarified the rules for using computers and mobile devices during the flight of the aircraft, although passengers will still not be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network to send and receive SMS, e-mail or make phone calls during take-off and landing of the machine.
So let’s consider how secure the Wi-Fi networks available on board airplanes are.
One of the first rules I remember when I first started studying internet security is that you must never ever connect to an airport wireless network. And I think most informed internet users will agree with me. So, if an airport wireless network is so bad, will the network offered by the airline on board the plane be more secure?
We asked one of Kaspersky Lab’s top experts, Kurt Baumgartner, what he thought about Wi-Fi security on the plane. Here’s what he had to say:
Security issues always come with the very idea of Wi-Fi. Currently, there are many techniques of attacking wireless internet access points, and thus – all devices that connect to them. Thus, by using a Wi-Fi network during the flight, you can expose your communication to unauthorized access by fellow passengers. Since not all of these devices can be updated immediately by the airlines as soon as vulnerabilities are revealed, longer time frames are possible with unpatched software and outdated hardware on board. It is difficult for airlines to update aircraft software and hardware as quickly as the situation requires.
I think everyone will agree that banning electronic devices in flight is at least somewhat ridiculous, irritating and inconvenient. However, the fact is that it is much easier to launch an attack using a wireless network or Bluetooth system when the attacker is within close proximity of their target.
Probably more disturbing is that there are many very talented people with great knowledge. I mean the security researchers who present their findings at conferences like Black Hat . We have written about them more than once. They can hack cars , medical devices and who knows what else. If they can, then maybe there are people who don’t have pure intentions and could hack the plane?
All these attacks are carried out remotely, but at close range, such as from the first class cabin to the cockpit (as if flying alone wasn’t scary enough!). But seriously, passengers have been able to use on-board Wi-Fi networks for years, and it’s probably better to concentrate on avoiding malware infections and other attacks, because that’s what you’ll be dealing with as airlines become more electronics-friendly.