A hacker could gain complete control over a plane's navigation using an Android smartphone, according to a new report from security researcher Hugo Teso. Forbes reports that Teso demonstrated how using a custom application on his Samsung Galaxy, he was able to exploit certain systems in a plane's electronics. This gave him full control over navigation, as long as the plane remained in autopilot, and limited control over lesser functions such as cockpit lights. If the aircraft's pilots did not eventually engage manual controls, a hacker could accomplish any number of malicious actions, such as crashing one aircraft into another.
Teso accomplished the hack by using his phone to send radio signal instructions to the plane's systems. The plane's systems followed his instructions because they lack security procedures to determine whether commands were sent by a rogue hacker or a trusted source such as an air traffic controller. However, the hack requires this radio connection with a plane's controls, limiting the distance someone can be when attempting the hack.
The app can completely control a plane's flightpath
Teso created the hacking application by studying and reverse engineering actual aircraft electronics. However, Teso specifically designed the application to work only within his laboratory environment and not within an actual plane, though he says that the exploits would be effective in a real environment if he had programmed his application differently. Teso has contacted relevant governing authorities and the manufacturers of these electronics with his research and is working with them to resolve the problems. Though he revealed the existence of these exploits, he did not publicly disclose information on how to find or take advantage of them.