New Tech Aims to Tell Pilots When Their Plane Has Been Hacked

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron flies next to a KC-135R Stratotanker after receiving fuel Sept. 24, 2019, near North Carolina's Outer Banks.

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron flies next to a KC-135R Stratotanker after receiving fuel Sept. 24, 2019, near North Carolina's Outer Banks. Jacob Derry/Air Force

Raytheon is pitching a product to detect cyber intrusions into aircraft, drones and even missiles.

As the military helicopter lifts off the ground and heads skyward, the numbers on the altimeter suddenly stop ticking upward. The rumble of the helicopter’s engines fade and the chopper starts losing altitude. A second later, a dire warning flashes in red on a cockpit screen: “Cyber Anomaly.”

The helicopter is under attack, but not from missiles or guns. Seconds later, it smashes into the ground.

Luckily for the pilot, he’s not in a real helicopter — just a small simulator set up in a conference room of a high-rise office building in Arlington, Virginia. Greg Fry, the engineer at the controls of the choreographed crash, is part of a Raytheon team that is building a new warning system that tells pilots when their planes are being hacked, something the U.S. military expects to happen in the battles of the future.

“Basically, we’re trying to give the pilot the information about what’s happening internally on his aircraft in real time,” said Amanda Buchanan, the project’s engineering lead. “We’re telling him what’s going on and allowing him to make decisions about what he needs to do to correct the problems.”

Inside most aircraft, important electronics are plugged into a serial data bus. The bus used in many U.S. military planes was developed in the 1970s and “still have not been updated for security,” according to Fry, a cyber-resiliency product manager at Raytheon.

“You GPS talks on it, your fuel valve switches are on it, your autopilot is on it and other avionics systems all communicate over this bus,” Fry said. “What we found is as technology has increased and more and more [commercial] products are put in aircraft, there’s more of an attack surface for cyber threats to go onto the platform.”

Raytheon began developing this Cyber Anomaly Detection System three years ago after receiving “customer feedback” about “vulnerabilities in aviation platforms,” Buchanan said. She declined to identify the customer. Raytheon self-funded the project, Fry said. Company officials won’t say if the systems is deployed on U.S. military aircraft.

Pentagon officials have increasingly been talking about weapon cyber vulnerabilities and the need for companies “harden” their products. In August, the Washington Post reported that Air Force-sponsored hackers had found cyber vulnerabilities in the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet. 

Hackers can get into military and commercial aircraft, vehicles, and even missiles and bombs by infecting them with malware — say, by plugging an infected cell phone into one of the aircraft’s USB ports, or even wirelessly, Fry said.

Buchanan hacked Fry’s helicopter by injecting malicious code wirelessly from a tablet. The code caused the helicoper’s engines to shut down. While Fry was able to disable the helicopter's wireless receiver before hitting the ground, he was not able to stop its fall.

Raytheon says the technology could be used to detect cyber intrusions on drones, vehicles or even missiles. And although its product can currently only detect attacks, new versions may be able to fight them off and repair the damage.

“In the future we’re looking more in that direction, but right now we’re starting with a passive system, so we won’t interfere with the bus,” Buchanan said. “We’re just going to leave the human in the loop [and] leave the pilot in control and make him aware of his surroundings so that he can take the actions.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.