Feeds

US Air traffic safe from hackers – FAA

Pilots are now optional

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

Computer security weaknesses in the U.S. air traffic control network that have dogged the Federal Aviation Administration since 1998 have been substantially closed, the FAA's CIO said Thursday, but the agency needs more funding to continue the effort.

"I think we've made a lot of progress in the last couple of years," said Daniel Mehan, speaking on a panel at the RSA Conference in San Jose, Calif. "I think, for example, it is safe to fly... But we can not continue it without getting substantial aid from the administration and Congress."

The FAA was criticized in a September, 2000, GAO report for not performing background checks on IT contractors, failing to install intrusion detection systems, and not performing adequate risk assessments and penetration tests on agency systems. It was the third time in as many years that the agency had flunked an audit by Congress' investigative arm.

"Until FAA addresses the pervasive weaknesses in its computer security program, its critical information systems will remain at increased risk of intrusion and attack, and its aviation operations will remain at risk," the 2000 report concluded.

Mehan outlined the FAA's current cyber security practices, which include maintaining redundant systems, seperating administrative networks from control networks, and using "firebreaks" as a hedge against viruses and worms that might get into an internal network. "At FAA we believe in layers of protection," said Mehan. "So you contain any attack in certain parts, and then use redundancy as a backup."

The FAA update offered a grounded moment in a panel that brought together five lawmakers and government officials to ponder a question that could have been ripped from a supermarket tabloid: "Which is the greatest threat to our well-being: intercontinental nuclear missiles or cyber terrorism?"

That question went unanswered, but some on the panel seemed to favor the latter.

"Certainly intercontinental missiles are an issue," said Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). "But I think that we have infrastructure ways to protect ourselves... Whereas cyber terrorism, I question how much knowledge and protection we have."

"Clearly, the threat is real," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). "Following September 11, Osama bin Laden reportedly spoke of attacking U.S. computers."

The session continued the theme struck by the conference's opening keynote Tuesday, when White House cyber security czar Richard Clarke urged industry to spend more money on information security, lest America's enemies launch devastating cyber attacks on the electric power grid, telecommunications networks and air traffic control systems -- all of which he said relied on the Internet.

Panelists unanimously expressed support for the White House's belief in terrorist hackers, though Mehan -- perhaps unwittingly -- contradicted one of Clarke's assertions. "Our air traffic does not use the Internet," he said.

© 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?