all-clear. Even if a person were able to exploit this security loophole, the pilots themselves could just simply make a course correction. Other means of communication are available in each passenger airplane which allow verification of positioning data and flight plans. On top of this, the flight-control center would also spot each course change and alarm the pilots.
The statistical probability of mounting such attacks successfully is far below the other typical causes of failure, technical or human error, which are also rare. Airplane manufacturers also want to save costs and are trying wherever possible to integrate standard IT components that transfer and process data using standard IT formats.
Airline operators have set out countless operational cases where digital data would improve services, shorten ground times, and resultingly save costs. Whether over the short term or long term, manufacturers will eventually meet these requests and integrate an ever greater amount of standard IT equipment into airplanes. Hopefully the security measures will be tightened to meet the aviation industry’s more stringent requirements.
So how about the information on your notebook or tablet? WiFi access aboard an airplane is just like a standard public hotspot – no difference from the one in the airport or at Starbucks. Those who use the WiFi network share the wireless network with all other users. Whether airplane manufacturers integrate specific security measures in their switches and routers is information that currently only they know. For this reason exactly, the same security measures that are also suitable at Starbucks or in the airport should apply: Either you encrypt all data traffic using a virtual private network (VPN), which companies usually install on professional users’ devices anyway, or you encrypt each app’s data. In the case of email, this can be done using encryption programs like Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), EnigMail or GnuPG. For browser-based communications, it can be achieved using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology, usually identifiable by the little padlock icon in the address bar. Plug-ins for many browsers can also take care of this automatically if required, such as HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox and Chrome. Naturally, the internal firewall should be enabled on each device and the latest version of a security software solution such as Avira Antivirus Pro, Avira Internet Security Suite or Avira Free Antivirus should also be installed and active.