Central NC pilots concerned about federal warning about small-plane hacks

Local News

LOUISBURG, N.C. (WNCN) – The Department of Homeland Security is alerting pilots that small planes may be susceptible to getting hacked.

The report said hackers could install a device and send false information to pilots. That can include altitude and airspeed, which has pilots worried.

Rich Malkin, who is an instructor with Total Flight Solutions at Triangle North Executive Airport, has spent many years in the cockpit of small planes.

“I absolutely love it,” Mankin said.

It’s concerning to Mankin, especially if flying in what he calls an “instrument environment.”

“(You’re) in the clouds, and you’re shooting an approach, you’re at low altitude,” Mankin said. “That is a concern because your senses are limited to what’s being presented in front of you.”

According to the alert, the device would be attached to the plane’s CAN bus.

“It transmits important data to certain components within the cockpit, which are critical to the pilot,” said Giovanni Masucci with National Digital Forensics Inc.

Masucci, a cyber forensic expert, believes pilots should be aware of the warning.

“By giving false readings, it can cause a crash,” he said. “I would be concerned if I own a small aircraft, or if I was riding on a small aircraft.”

Along with making sure that they’re physically secure, Masucci said it’s also important for pilots to check whether there are any updates for flight management systems in planes, and to look into security measures at airports.

Mankin said at Triangle North Executive Airport, there is perimeter fencing and continuous monitoring. He also recommends limited access to the plane and keeping it locked.

CBS 17 hasn’t heard of any reports of small planes actually being hacked.

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