How Homeland Security hacked into a Boeing 757

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Boeing 757
Image Credit: Dreamstime
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With so many great deals on airfare leading up to the holiday season, more than 28 million people are expected to hit the skies to visit family and friends across the country for Thanksgiving.

The busiest travel day of all will be November 26, according to industry trade group Airlines for America. An estimated 2.88 million people are forecast to travel on that day alone.

With that in mind, there’s a disconcerting new report out that says a jet airliner was hacked remotely by government security researchers in a test last year.

RELATED: Holiday warning — Don’t pay to ship your pets through these bogus sites!

Security experts used “typical stuff that could get through security”

The hack, which took place in September 2016, was only revealed this week by Robert Hickey of the Department of Homeland Security during a conference.

CBS News quotes Hickey saying his team used “typical stuff that could get through security” to remotely hack a Boeing 757 parked at the airport in Atlantic City, NJ.

The whole process took Hickey & Co. two days to pull off.

As to the exact methodology of the hack attack, Hickey was deliberately vague when he answered that “radio frequency communications” were the key to breaching the airliner’s computer system.

The name of the airline that owned the hacked jet was not revealed.

While 757s haven’t been in production for almost 15 years, you can still find them in the fleets of major airlines like United, Delta and American.

Meanwhile, both the president and vice-president often fly in 757s, according to CBS.

Could the hacking attempts we’ve seen with automobiles spread to airplanes?

In the past, we’ve witnessed white hat hackers tapping into the computer systems of a Jeep and a Nissan Leaf, among other vehicles.

In the case of the Nissan Leaf hack, it was done in a test environment by security researchers were able to turn on the car’s heated seating and steering wheel, fans and air conditioning remotely.

However, the Jeep test hack was done in a real-world environment. The white hats were able to stop the Jeep on the highway while a journalist was still inside it behind the wheel!

Now with the news of the Department of Homeland Security test hack, the fear is that the reach of potentially malicious hackers could expand to larger moving objects.

We’ve reached out to Airlines for America to get their perspective on hacking threats to airplane computer systems. No reply was received by press time.

RELATED: How easy is it to hack the Nissan Leaf? Experts say easier than you’d think

How to fly smarter and protect your valuables

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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