It's a terrifying thought that cyber crims could hack into a plane and take control. A new backdoor into one of the chips used in "flight-critical" applications in some planes, as well military toys, has been found that could potentially allow just that.
The Actel-produced chip has a hardware-level backdoor designed into it, which, because it's ingrained into the silicon, can't be disabled. The backdoor essentially circumvents any and all security around the chip, making it a potential skeleton key into the system.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the planes that use this Actel chip, but its also found in medical, automotive and communications systems. It's not confined to just civilian systems either. Apparently the chip is used in military systems, like drones, surveillance equipment, and other bits and pieces. The chip is "military spec," but that only really means it'll survive a large temperature range.
Whether hackers can really use this backdoor to pluck planes from the sky, or hack military equipment is unknown at this stage -- you have to believe it's pretty unlikely. It's certainly not good news though; having a gaping hole in your security blanket at the chip level could be a massive problem. It's frightening to think that what you've seen in films, where hackers take control of planes, could really happen, even if this particular backdoor leads to nowhere. [The Guardian]