Published on Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sen. Schumer says FAA air traffic control vulnerable to hackers



New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has urged 'immediate action' to what he says is lax security protocols at the Federal Aviation Administration's National Air Traffic Control System.

"Sophisticated terrorists could even steer planes into one another. The threat of a cyber criminal taking over this system makes your stomach sink," Schumer said.

"Cost is not the issue here, the issue is sophistication. I don't think it'll be that expensive - nor should any other logistical barrier."

Schumer cited the disarray caused by the recent Sony hack due to slack cyber security protection.

"If the Sony hacking was bad, imagine how much worse the hacking of the FAA computer system could be with thousands of planes in the air," said Schumer.

Schumer's comments follow a wide-ranging report by the Government Accountability Office which identified three key areas at the FAA that need beefing up -  data encryption, regular testing of its servers and improving firewall security.

"Until FAA establishes stronger agency-wide information security risk management processes, fully develops its national airspace system information security program, and ensures the remedial actions are addressed in a timely manner, the weaknesses that we identified are likely to continue, placing the safe and uninterrupted operation of the nation's air traffic control system at increased and unnecessary risk," the GAO report said.

Another GAO report said the number of attempted incursions by hackers against US federal departments have surged 782% between 2006 and 2012.

Schumer has long been critical of various issues in the aviation industry, including low flying drones, high air fares and airport security screening lapses.

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