For decades, traditional aircraft voice communications were based on analog technology with voice traveling over radio waves. In the 1970’s, digital data links were established for the flight crew to enable the transmission of short messages between aircraft and ground stations via radio or satellite. Today, with passengers on commercial aircraft connected by satellite and digital technologies to a variety of entertainment applications, the need to protect these systems from cyber threats has increased significantly over the last few years.
“For sure the landscape has changed,” says Sam Miller, Director of Product Cybersecurity for InFlyt Experience, Thales’ leading-edge connected in-flight entertainment system business. “And although the entertainment system is not considered safety-critical, we are committed to making sure that aircraft systems are protected. That’s why we work with the aircraft OEMs to ensure proper segregation and validation of systems end-to-end.”
In 2015, consultant Chris Roberts told the FBI he had hacked airlines at least 15 times by connecting through entertainment systems. While his claims remain the subject of debate, they served to highlight the need for increased cybersecurity in the air – even if the likelihood of a down-level system intrusion is low.
“With the increase of data and personalization, there’s more to protect,” says Fred Schreiner, CTO of Thales InFlyt Experience. “We’ve always had to protect movie rights, but since the Chris Roberts claims, there’s been increased awareness among airlines and the public about cybersecurity, and we’ve continued to make significant investments.”
At any given time, more than a million airline passengers a day use Thales InFlyt Experience systems, installed across 75 partner airlines worldwide. And more than ever, passengers want connectivity options through their own devices. AVANT, Thales’ new state-of-the-art Android entertainment solution features a highly customizable passenger experience with the latest applications on the market, and allows connectivity on the ground and in the air.