A Case For Aircraft Security

Comments on Connectivity crossover and the case for cockpit security’ do highlight an interesting debate on the subject of security for the new generation of eEnabled aircraft.

This is not the first discussion on the subject, as since the FAA Special Conditions No. 25-356-SC and 25-357-SC were published in Jan 08 a number of interesting debates have been triggered.

I have observed the many issues in this area for a number of years and here are some of my personal opinions.

With major airlines worldwide investing in a variety of IFE and connectivity solutions, keeping an ever-increasing techno aware passenger informed and entertained, is an important requirement for operators.

Retro- fitting of new IFE systems has been carried out successfully for many years … but todays newer IFE systems are introducing for the first time TCP/IP connectivity as an integral part of the aircraft and for airlines this introduced a new set of security risks and challenges.

Since the successful first flight of the 787 Dec 2009 and previous entry into service of the A380, Airline operational focus switched to the challenge of the new safe operation of eEnabled aircraft fleets, in particular Connectivity, Integration and Security. Airlines needed to understand the wider operational challenges of eEnablement.

One of the most obvious new challenges of eEnablement is the exposure of an airlines existing (in some cases substantial) ground based back office IT systems to what is essentially a hostile Aircraft environment.

Protecting both aircraft and ground based networks, became a operational requirement and airline operators of eEnabled Aircraft needed to be satisfied they had an appropriate IT architecture in place.

Companies with global business interests issue employees with network ready devices for connecting to back office systems from any worldwide location. They consider each other as hostile until successful authentication has been achieved.

Today’s eEnabled aircraft have the same requirement, but with one major exception, connected passenger devices could not be successfully authenticated and could never be trusted. Yet they will be connected to the operators onboard networks via WiFi, USB, RJ-45 etc. which in turn will have connections to the Airlines operational systems.

Airframer’s such as Airbus and Boeing are aware of the connectivity issues and have solutions to help control the different connectivity options. However given the potential complexity of an Airlines back office systems and operational processes, they do point out that integration and security are the operators responsibility and that any weakness may impact on an aircrafts airworthiness.

It is accepted by the aviation industry individuals and groups exist who have subversive agendas. These individuals (see diag) could be onboard the aircraft, at the airport, in fact, practically any location globally.

Q – Will the aircraft become a target for attack
A – Absolutely, the challenge exists. Airline security solutions will be tested.

Q – What if an attack succeeded.
A – Without doubt the impact to an Airlines safety and security would be brought into question and could subsequently impact the airlines Brand.

Q – Should IT networks be physically isolated onboard eEnabled aircraft.
A – Yes, this would help Airlines manage Connectivity, Integration and minimise the overall risk to the aircraft Security.

1 Comment

Filed under Aviation

Heathrow T5 – Main Terminal Building

Heathrow Terminal 5

Heathrow Terminal 5,
originally uploaded by Speedbird_NCL.

London Heathrow Terminal 5 building is 396 metres (1,300 ft) long, 176 metres (580 ft) wide and 40 metres (130 ft) tall. It is the largest building in the Terminal 5 complex and is the biggest free standing building in the United Kingdom.

Terminal 5 has four storeys, covered by a single-span steel frame roof, with glass facades angled at 6.5 degrees.
The area covered by Terminal 5 roof is the size of five football (soccer) pitches, and each section weighs 2,200 tonnes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Airport

Dream Start For Boeings 787 First Flight

It was a wonderful experience watching the maiden flight of Boeings 787 Dreamliner as it was broadcast live via Boeing’s webcast.

Seeing the vast Everett buildings brought back memories of my visit there in April 2008. Particularly the enormous size of the buildings where the aircraft are constructed.

B787 Production Everett April 2008

During my time in Seattle I had the opportunity to view the B787 flight simulator, not then in operation, but did give an impressive overview of the flight deck, which I can only described as ‘a visit to the command centre of the USS Enterprise’. Seeing the head-up display (HUD) in a commercial aircraft was a first for me and I was also impressed by the large electronic flight bag (EFB) display.

However now the Dreamliners first flight is over, both Boeing and its Airline customers can focus on the successful operation of the aircraft. Unlike any other aircraft the 787 is unique in its operation. For year’s airlines have operated aircraft safely and securely with tried and tested processes that are applied to new aircraft types as and when they have arrived. Not so for the 787, this aircraft (Also the Airbus A380) is heavily dependant on the digital transfer of information to and from the aircraft.

Ok, you might say ‘what’s the big deal in this day and age, we move data around all the time!!’. Well yes we do but that’s mainly with ground-based nodes on a wide area network. When you have a network of users (350+) on an IT network node that is sometimes disconnected and moves around the world at 35,000 feet you have a different proposition.

For the ground based IT experts this introduces a new set of challenges and for the established aircraft technicians in engineering this introduces challenges of a different kind. Both groups of experts will come from different angles when dealing with connectivity and security, as they will focus on how to secure their independent issues. However they must both look to the horizon to see potential looming regulation that will challenge the most experienced experts to get it right in an operational environment. Getting it wrong may impact the air worthiness of the operation.

Boeings accomplishment of the Dreamliners first flight has to be applauded, I’m sure all those employees seen on the webcast were rightfully proud of their achievements.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aircraft

New Generation Aircraft Challenges

Over the last decade commercial aviation has been engaged in a major transition towards a ‘digital aircraft’. With the next generation of aircraft (A380, A350 & B787), the industry is moving towards the ‘connected aircraft’ or ‘eEnabled aircraft’ This evolution is propelled by the need for increased efficiency and interoperability at a reduced overall operational cost.

In the past, specialized avionic systems provided predictable interactions with the aircraft, the introduction of commercially available ‘off-the-shelf’ hardware and software components has expanded the scope for aircraft interactivity. To maintain the predictability and security of the aircraft, the new systems have safeguards built in, to interoperate without unintended consequences. The systems design and certification onboard the aircraft are handled by the airframe and equipment manufacturers.

However this new generation of eEnabled aircraft has extensive requirements for external interaction. Here lies the greatest challenges. Whether it is aircraft systems transferring data to a ground station, or a passenger in the aircraft accessing a service using the Internet, great care has to be taken to ensure that only legitimate communication or ‘information transfer’ is occurring.

Check this link out for an interesting debate by Bruce Schneier in this area.

Airlines must have the ability to identify individual components, to a high level of assurance, this is important for the security of the aircraft and its operating environment. This is also true for the identities of the people that interact within the aircraft environment, such as pilots, cabin crew, mechanics, and other airline employees. Additionally, it is important to verify the integrity and the origin of data (including software) loaded onto the aircraft.

Architectural design challenges faced by airlines, are to provide a secure, reliable, flexible and adaptable ground based IT environment that will grow with the business and its operational requirements.

As eEnabled aircraft are added to airline fleets verifying the integrity and origin of data flows will become an ever-increasing challenge for airlines. A particular problem for airlines that operate both Airbus and Boeing ‘connected aircraft’, would be, how to create common processes, workflows and data feeds for the different fleets, that will require updating in many different worldwide locations and communication channels.

This new aircraft evolution will bring lots of challenges and opportunities for airlines but providing the right ‘Network Architecture’ foundation will be key to supporting the airline operation of the next generation aircraft.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aircraft

IL Divo at Bloomingdales

Just about to leave for New York in two days and my thoughts go back to a very memorable Christmas shopping trip to the big apple in November 2005.

The first day in New York didn’t go well, baggage did not arrive at the airport and we had to shop for some essential clothes. This unfortunate piece of bad luck turned out to be the best stroke of luck starting with the 150 dollar compensation payment at the airport, things continued to improve.

First stop the Levi shop opposite Bloomingdales. As I stepped outside the shop I had to have a double take Il Divo were doing a rehearsal about 30 feet away on a stage outside the store. I returned to the Levi store and casually mentioned that I had just seen Il Divo, which was met some what with disbelief.

A trip to Bloomingdales soon confirmind that Il Divo would be revealing the Christmas windows 2005.

Here is the video of one of the three songs they sang, hope you enjoy:YouTube

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, NYC, Travel

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-119 Launch 2009

STS-119 Shuttle Launch 2009It was by pure chance that on 15th March 2009, my last day in Florida,I had to switch airports from Miami to Orlando. While driving north on I5, the local radio station reported that after a number of failed attempts there was a good possibility that the Shuttle would be launched that evening, I remember cursing my bad luck, thinking that I would have loved to have seen it.
On arrival at the airport, I had a two hour wait until the scheduled departure of my flight BA2036 at 19:30.

We were boarded speedily, a little ahead of time  and once on-board I found out why –  the Captain announced that the Shuttle Discovery would be launched in the next 5 mins, and if we took off on time we would witness  the launch in-flight.  I was overjoyed and  immediately grasped my camera to video the launch from the aircraft. We were not disappointed it was an amazing experience.  The aircraft was 40 miles to the West of Launch site at 20,000ft and just about everyone on board got a ‘birds eye view’ of the launch ……


The pilot commented at the end of the flight at LGW that he hoped that we had enjoyed the flight and probably what would be a once in a life time experience of witnessing a shuttle launch in-flight.

Thanks BA that was some awesome in-flight entertainment!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under NASA

Mauritius – Indoor Market

Mauritius is a small island in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Madagascar. Immediately you arrive on the island you begin to feel the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.Mauritius June 2009
Port Louis is the capital of the island and it is here in the bustling indoor market you get the feeling that time has stood still. This building must be one of the oldest in the city and probably hasn’t changed since it was constructed. The colourful array of locally grown produce was stimulating for sight, sound, smell and taste. In contrast, deep within the building an escalator takes you to the first floor were you can indulge your sense of touch as you are surrounded by beautiful cotton and silk fabrics which the local traders are keen to sell at bargain prices.
There is a lot to do and see on this wonderful island and the market is a must if you visit the capital.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel