Hackers targeted air travel and successfully grounded around 1,400 passengers on Sunday.
The problems for passengers started at Warsaw Chopin airport after the airline says hackers breached its ground computers, which are used to issue flight plans. The grounded airline, LOT Polish Airways, told CNN because of the attack it was unable to create flight plans for outbound flights from its Warsaw hub and as a result outbound flights from Warsaw were not able to depart.
Poland’s national flag carrier says it was forced to cancel 20 flights and several others were delayed on Sunday after suffering an attack on its IT system.
Sebastian Mikosz, CEO of the Polish airline LOT, is warning all airlines are vulnerable.
“Of course this is an industry problem, not a LOT problem but an industry problem on a much wider scale, and for sure we have to give it more attention, if it can be given more attention,” he told Reuters.
Mikosz also said cyberattacks on aviation are an ongoing issue the industry will continue to deal with.
“Because the attention is very high. And this is why I think we managed pretty quickly within a few hours to re-establish the functioning. But yes, I expect it can happen to anyone anytime,” he said.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration requires all aircraft to file a flight plan before takeoff. Domestic flight plan information is used to track the flight of an aircraft for its protection and identification purposes. The information is used by air traffic controllers to make sure all flights in the air are on a safe path.
In the event of a crash search-and-rescue, accident investigators, military, law enforcement, and the Department of homeland Security use the information as well.
LOT’s website now notes the problem is under control and its systems are now producing flight plans again.
Potential cyberattacks on the aviation system has been an ongoing concern for an industry that relies on electronic systems for critical parts of their operations, including safety critical functions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations sanctioned group designed to help develop global aviation standards.
“Currently cyber security is a relatively minor issue in civil aviation, but this is changing,” the international group said In a 2012 working paper. “Although the adoption of new technology is an ongoing activity in civil aviation, the current pace and extent of new information technologies is notably increasing the risk from cyberattacks.”
In April, a cybersecurity consultant was detained after tweets discussing hacking into the plane he was traveling on.
He told the FBI he hacked into computer systems aboard airliners up to 20 times and managed to control an aircraft engine during a flight, according to federal court documents.
It is unclear if his claims are true, but cyberattacks are a real concern for the aviation industry.
The type of hack LOT airlines experienced can cripple air travel for hours at a time.
Analysts have said cyberattacks on aviation can have a physiological impact on passengers and their confidence in air travel and that can translate to an economic impact.
Aviation is a huge economic driver and when the industry is disrupted, it can have a huge blow to the economy. U.S. civil aviation related economic activity generated $1.5 trillion and supported 11.8 million jobs in 2012, according to a 2015 FAA economic impact report.