The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other U.S. government agencies believe it is only a matter of time before a cyberattack against an airline which could lead to a catastrophic disaster.
The statement came from a Department of Energy government research laboratory focusing on the lab's findings around aviation cybersecurity and was included in government internal presentations and risk assessments obtained by Vice's Motherboard.
DHS mentioned various impacts that could stem from an aircraft hack ranging including scenarios where the public perceives there are risk to aircraft operations, disruption to commercial and military air cargo, and effects on a competitor if a single airline is targeted.
“Potential of catastrophic disaster is inherently greater in an airborne vehicle,” a presentation from the organization read.
The documents also revealed that DHS anticipates “significant reluctance by the commercial world to expend resources to prevent penetration & attack” with one of the documents citing that Boeing estimates a 20 year plus service life for its current aircraft which meaning 15-20 years of cyber vulnerability.
A Boeing spokesperson told the publication the firm has worked closely with DHS and other agencies for many years to ensure the cybersecurity of its aircraft and a DHS spokesperson told the publication that it works with both researchers and vendors to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the aviation sector.
Motherboard noted that DHS withheld large section of the files under exemptions dealing with, among other things, protecting trade secrets and information intended for law enforcement purposes.