Digital instrumentation screens adorn the cockpit of a Bombardier Global 7000 aircraft, in Toronto. (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)"Changing flight control settings at critical times (landing or takeoff) could be catastrophic," the note allowed, but added: "The likelihood of such an event is assessed as very low."
"The possibility of a terrorist being able to directly influence the flight via the entertainment system is assessed as very low."The federal analysts acknowledged that, according to expert hackers, it is possible to create non-existent ghost aircraft signals that would create confusion for air-traffic controllers and pilots, who would not know which ones were real. However, the tests were all performed in a laboratory setting, the assessment says. In addition, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has pointed to multiple levels of redundancy and cross-checking of data with radar to ensure aircraft would never be endangered by spoofed signals. As a result, the "jihadi statement that any malfunction or hack into the system is guaranteed to cause an aircraft collision is simply not the case," the Transport Canada assessment concluded. The department also expressed skepticism about another potential vulnerability cited by experts — infiltration of a plane's satellite communication system (SATCOM) through the in-flight entertainment console. "The entertainment system is electronically separate from the other aircraft systems and only shares a power source. Currently there are no routes with which a passenger could infect the aircraft SATCOM or navigation systems via the entertainment console," the intelligence assessment says. "Therefore, the possibility of a terrorist being able to directly influence the flight via the entertainment system is assessed as very low." A few months later, court documents revealed the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing a man's claim that he had made a plane move sideways by executing a hack via the entertainment system. A Transport Canada spokeswoman had nothing immediate to add to the department's assessments. Safe air travel is a critical priority for Canadians, and vital to national security generally, said Marc-Andre O'Rourke, executive director of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents major carriers including Air Canada. "Given the security nature of this issue, we are unable to comment further."
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: