Cyber terrorism will replace bombers and decapitators


If it can carry a camera, why not carry high explosives and take it to the airport?

Cyber attacks and commercial drones pose a growing risk of commercial aeroplane crashes, a major insurer has said.

Technical advances in aircraft design and navigation systems have reduced the chance of dying in a plane crash, but the reliance on computers poses new types of risks.

‘Cyber terrorism may replace the hijacker and bomber and become the weapon of choice on attacks against the aviation community,’ German insurer Allianz said in a review of aviation safety, publicly expressing concerns that others insurers have discussed in private.

Consumer drones will become ubiquitous, and all you have to do is fly one into a jet engine – you don’t even need an explosive payload.

The International Air Transport Association has been working to improve cyber security including the launch this year of a toolkit to help airlines assess and mitigate risks in their IT systems.

‘Aviation relies on computer systems extensively in ground and flight operations and air traffic management, and we know we are a target,’ IATA Director General Tony Tyler said at a conference in October.

Another potential threat comes from commercial drones, whose use is expanding in surveillance, crop dusting, news gathering and sporting events and for which there is no standard international regulation.

Licensing will be inevitable.  I also see a time where models that aren’t restricted to certain heights are going to need transponders as well as “return to base” or “forced avoidance” triggers that can be set off by official agencies.


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  • cmm

    Sure all these dangerous things are possible, but are they really any more likely than any other things that could be done with existing technology?

    We hear of the dangers of 3D printers because they can make crap plastic pistols, yet nobody worries that you can make far more effective and dangerous fire arms using $20 of hand tools and pipe-gun plans off the internet.

    We seem to be living in a paranoid age with unwarranted fears. Thank goodness such dangerous contrivances as knives, scissors, matches, gas stoves, electricity and motor vehicles were invented when they were because none of them would be allowed if they were invented now.

    • Wahbonnah

      ummm we can’t take knives, scissors, matches, or gas stoves on planes now.
      so they’re not allowed in some places already :-)

    • Courierdude

      You are right on so many levels. The biggest instigator of paranoia is the media. Sensationalism sells. To hell with the truth.

  • conwaycaptain

    Want to stuff the world economy up???
    1 Hack into the GPS System and put the timing 5 seconds out. No one will notice until ships start hitting the beach.
    2 Blow up 3 or 4 of the GPS Ground Stations. Most of the numpties at sea these days cant read a sextant then they will be en le merde.
    3 Put a container of explosives in one of the Maersk Triple E s or similar, connect to a mobile phone and phone the phone when the ship is in the middle of the Suez!!!

    • STAG

      Please, GPS is the American system almost all commercial users/ receivers use GOS, GLONASS, Beidou Galileo and more coming on all the time the systems are smart enough to regulate for obvious timing errors.

      • Dog Breath

        Not sure if the west is ready to trust the Russians or the French for their GPS services so I have some doubt about your assertion thst the market is dominated by their systems.

        • STAG

          My poorly made point is most receivers use more then one systems signal, so a change in a GPS signal would be rejected by the unit if it falls outside the HDOP of the other signals.

    • cmm

      Having spent some years working on the innards of GPS receivers I can assure you that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

      The GPS system’s timing is self monitoring. GPS timing is also used for internet routers etc. The worldwide internet would crash if it was out less than a few microseconds. That would be more damaging than the ships.

      Blow up a ground station. Not a big deal. It would only take a few hours to set up another one.

      May I suggest you stock up on tin foil next time you’re at Countdown.

  • Bobb

    Flying a drone into a jet engine in flight would be as likely as winning powerball every week for a month. The liftoff speed of a commercial jet is approaching 200 knots. you would struggle to get it in there even while the plane was taxiing on the apron.

    • Honcho

      Pretty much, Even if it managed to make it into the core engine, remembering modern turbo fans as fitted to airliners run a very high bypass ratio, with many times more air being driven simply by the fan and diverting the core engine. Even if the engine was taken out with FOD ingestion then the aircraft would simply call a pan-pan, complete a circuit at single engine maneuvering speed, and land safely as all crews are trained and regularly practice to do … even in the completely unlikely event of a double engine flame out (see US Airways 1549) then the ‘rat’ will deploy, which will provide an emergency supply of hydraulic pressure and electrical power through the HMG, which is enough to safely conduct a forced landing without power.

  • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

    If it can carry a camera then a hand gun/cut down rifle is easy and no one will be safe, not to mention no one actually pulling the trigger – so how do you catch the culprit then?

  • cows4me

    I wouldn’t worry, for every good thing invented there are bad buggers that will use it for their own ends equality there are many more good buggers that are usually a step ahead. It’s the way of the world. Look at computer hacking and the opposite industry it has spawned.

  • Davo42

    Mark my words – it’s only a matter of time before terrorists use this tech to place explosives to the exterior of parked aircraft to be triggered by timers or altitude or gps positioning fuses. You have to think of them as relativley stealthy heavy lift electronic carrier pigeons, and anything is possible.

  • Billythekid

    I’m proud to admit a DC3 took out my newspaper kite on approach to Harewood Airport as it was known back in the 60’s. My old man who was a cop at Papanui police station in those days thought he had a news scoop for the family until my mother pipped him with the story about his little Billy. As far as I know the DC3 is still in service somewhere. The kite came down as confetti.