CYBSEC (Pre-studies) - Security and Privacy of Air Traffic Communication 

Photo credit: Thor Balkhed

A number of wireless technologies are used by air traffic communication systems during different flight phases. From a conceptual perspective, all of them are insecure as security was never part of their design. Airlines and airports increasingly become targets of cyber attacks.

EASA’s new cybersecurity centre registers about 1000 attacks each month. With the widespread availability of cheap and powerful tools such as software-defined radios (SDR) and drones, the high-profile incidents, such as the case of hijacked emergency signals or alleged military exercises causing aircraft to vanish from European radar screens, became potentially feasible, which has been proven recently by hackers and the academic community. 

Recent contributions from academic and hacking communities have exploited potential vulnerability of air traffic communication to demonstrate attacks on some of the currently used technologies. However, not all of these contributions have resonated widely within aviation circles. There exists an obvious mismatch between security research and the aviation community concerning their approaches to the problem of air traffic communications security. 

Goals: Within the project we examine the security measures currently adopted in air traffic communication in Sweden, analyse technical characteristics of the wireless ATM communication technologies and examine the possibility of attacks and unauthorized usage.

The pre-studies and the follow-up studies will build a bridge between the ATM and research communities in the field of wireless communication security. We will propose a set of potential countermeasures able to defend air traffic control systems and significantly improve the security of air traffic communication networks under the existing real-world constraints.