At last year’s DEFCON hacker’s meeting Dr Phil Polstra, professor of digital forensics at Bloomberg University (and a qualified commercial pilot and flight instructor), delivered a lecture on the feasibility of in-flight aircraft hacking. It turns out it’s a lot more difficult than you might think.
Aircraft IT systems are built around non-TCP/IP protocols called ARINC, or AFDX on Airbus equipment. One of the key differences with this protocol is that it allows unidirectional data and will lock out a non-standard sending signal.
With regards to Roberts’ claims, Dr Polstra said that they were interesting and that he looked forward to discussing them with the researcher at a future DEFCON conference “assuming he is not in jail.” But the method of hacking seems unlikely.
IFE systems do receive some information from the emergency information crew alert system (EICAS), chiefly the aircraft’s location and speed for those little progress maps, but this data comes through a unidirectional Network Extension Device (NED).
Ryan Benharris had $200 stolen from his debit card after his Starbucks account was hijacked recently, but that’s not why he was furious at the firm. He was angry about what happened next.
“I had to beg and plead to get my money back,” he said. “They lied to me… I’m an attorney, and it took me four hours on the phone and six weeks to get a refund.”
As Benharris and a pile of other victims have contacted me with stories of frustration, it appears Starbucks has made a change to its website in light of disclosures last week that criminals were attacking customers and stealing money from their Starbucks-linked bank accounts. More on the change in a moment.
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