Garmin tackles ‘misinformation’ on hacking aircraft avionics

June 18, 2014

Garmin tackles misinformation about the security of avionics and hacking.

With much publicity the past several months focusing on hacking and security breaches—in the media, TV shows, and movies—Garmin is setting the record straight on the myths around one such possible breach: hacking aircraft avionics.

Garmin, an industry leader in aviation avionics, said in a blog posted June 17 that avionics manufacturers take numerous measures to ensure that avionics are safe and secure for pilots to use.

Garmin said that its software runs on proprietary operating systems “that would make it much more difficult to successfully accomplish an attack,” and that “proprietary protocols, data input validations, and other mitigations are in place to prevent viruses or malware from infecting, or affecting, our equipment.”

In addition, avionics manufacturers perform safety assessments on what could happen in an aircraft if the avionics data were corrupted, deliberately or not, and then develop mitigations for those possibilities before they go through equipment certification. And, all avionics are able to be overridden by the pilot, if he or she determines the aircraft is not doing what was intended. In many cases, pilots also must validate that their flight plan information is uploaded correctly and accept it before using it for active navigation. These actions help prevent input mistakes by the pilot as well as enhance security.

Certified avionics manufacturers also are required “to analyze field reports for potential safety issues and provide information to our customers about issues that may lead to unsafe flight conditions as well as fielding necessary equipment updates,” Garmin said.

Because of these multiple safeguards, the company encouraged pilots (and aircraft passengers) to “rest assured that Garmin, and other avionics manufacturers, apply rigorous processes to ensure threat sources are adequately mitigated so that you can trust both the safety and the security of the information the avionics provide.”