The Federal Aviation Authority has refused to certify Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner mid-sized aircraft as safe because of the fear that hackers may be able to break into its computer system and commandeer the plane.
The plane was prewired to give passengers Internet connection during the flight, which worries the FAA officials because they say those networks could allow access to computer systems that steer and monitor the health of the aircraft.
“The proposed architecture of the 787 allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required to the safe operation of the airplane .... This new passenger connectivity may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety of the airplane.”
The FAA will now require Boeing to demonstrate that the plane's computer system is hacker-proof before certifying it as safe, says United Press International.
Lori Gunter, a Boeing spokeswoman, said the FAA report's language was misleading and that the plane's networks don't completely connect. "There are places where the networks are not touching, and there are places where they are," she told Wired magazine.
Boeing was aware that the new aircraft would need special protections and has added extra security layers such as firewalls, Boeing's Chuck Royalty, the plane's computer security specialist, told USA Today.
But as the Times reports, none of the security systems have been tested, according to Gunter, although she did tell Wired that Boeing is working with the FAA to test the system in March, when the Dreamliner is scheduled to makes its test flight.
"It will all be done before the first airplane is delivered," she said. Boeing has already taken 800 advance orders for its new airplane, which is scheduled to begin service in November 2008