Paper released in advance of “Future Connected Aircraft” event

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner.The organisers behind the “Future Connected Aircraft” event, which takes place in Dallas, Texas on December 6 and 7 2018, have issued a paper entitled “Preparing for future cyber threats to aircraft”, written by Peter Skaves, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor (CSTA), at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA selected Peter Skaves as the CSTA for Advanced Avionics in May 2010. Prior to this selection, Peter had various assignments with the FAA including Special Projects Team Lead and Special Assistant to the Washington, DC Avionics Branch.

In the paper Peter explains that transport category airplanes are extremely safe because the systems used for guidance and control use fault-tolerant designs including independence, have layers of redundancy, and do not have a single access point, which if exploited could cause an unsafe condition during flight operations.

The FAA believes that the greatest threat is the exploitation of aircraft electronic access points via public networks such as the internet or counterfeit integrated circuits / computer chips.

He says 95% of computer chips used in airplanes are commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts that are also used in cell phones, personal computers, video equipment, data networks, automobiles.

These commercial parts are typically not manufactured or designed in FAA approved facilities and users of these parts do not have access to the design or development assurance data.

To address potential gaps in the use of these commercial parts, the industry has developed and published industry standards such as Electronic Component Management Plans (ECMP) that provide guidance on the use of these parts in aircraft systems including counterfeit parts and other security considerations.

He says the system integration of COTS parts is extremely important, and manufacturers typically use built-in-tests during power-on and continuously during flight to monitor, detect, report and use fault-handling techniques to address and mitigate system errors.

Therefore, no single point failure of a COTS part could cause an unsafe condition in aircraft operations.

Peter will be talking more on the subject at the “Future Connected Aircraft” event in Dallas.

Click here to download Peter’s paper.

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