Russian hackers attempted to penetrate the U.S. civilian authority

As part of an assault on sensitive infrastructure, Russian hackers attempted to penetrate the U.S. civilian authority. Jeff Troy, executive director of the Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center while confirming the intrusion noted that the effect of the attack was minimal and the industry had taken the necessary steps to prevent a repeat of the hack.


“It hit a part of our very broad membership,” Troy said. The intrusion wasn’t something that would directly harm airplanes or airlines, he said. “But I did see that this impacted some companies that are in the aviation sector.” The attack on the aviation sector was part of a co-ordinated attack originating from Russia and targeting vital infrastructure in the US like water processing plants and the electric grid. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation identified aviation as one of the targets but didn’t provide specifics.


Troy’s group A-ISAC is an umbrella body for aircraft manufacturers, equipment suppliers, satellite builders, airports, and airlines, among others in the aviation industry. Similar groups that monitor cyber-attacks on different sectors of the economy were formed in 1998 by Presidential directive. Troy said the intrusion was detected in the early stages when hackers monitor and test a network’s defenses in order to determine the best weapons to use.


Disrupting airline systems could cause enormous economic and psychological effects. As an example, airlines whose computer reservation system have crashed, usually need to halt operations and may lose millions of dollars. Terrorists have always targeted aviation because of the massive impact it has on society. The focus on the aviation sector highlights the risks to large infrastructure systems from cyber intrusions, said Lance Hoffman, a distinguished research professor at George Washington University’s Department of Computer Science. Aviation companies like airlines, along with systems like the air-traffic control network, operate with increasingly connected computers that are inherently vulnerable to hacking, Hoffman said.

“How do you build a system and test it and get it right?” he said. “That is a hard question.”


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