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Airlines raise security fears over connected flying

The increasing use of IP-based networks and online services is giving rise to security concerns at airlines, according to airline industry IT body Sita.
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Written by Tom Espiner, Senior Reporter on

The increasing use of IP-based networks and online services is giving rise to security concerns at airlines, according to airline industry IT body SITA.

A SITA survey of 152 airlines claimed that migration to IP-enabled networks, the expanded use of Internet-facing self-service systems, and an increase in passenger numbers have all contributed to security concerns among airlines.

In addition, 74 percent of respondents said that migration to IP-based networks had also increased exposure to security breaches.

While only just over half of the airlines surveyed in the SITA 2007 Airline IT Trends Survey currently offer check-in over the Web, 89 percent expect to offer it within the next two years. By then, 52 percent of airlines are planning to offer self-boarding services and 76 percent plan to implement mobile phone check-in services.

"Each of these services adds new layers to the physical and IT security equation, increases security risks and poses the challenge to deliver secure services in a fast and efficient manner," the survey stated.

This survey follows the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airing fears in January that Boeing's 787 Dreamliner computer systems could be hacked by passengers due to a lack of isolation between navigation systems and entertainment systems -- including Internet services offered to passengers.

According to the FAA this connectivity could result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane.

The FAA outlined special conditions regarding the design of the 787's computer networks that Boeing must meet before the aircraft can be used commercially.

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