How secure are in-flight Internet connections?
The security problems faced by airlines are no different from those in today’s hybrid infrastructure networks involving wireline and wireless, fixed and mobile communication networks carrying voice, video and data traffic. Solutions recommended for such conventional hybrid setups apply to these air-to-ground and intra-airliner setups as well.
Usually, a multi-layer security approach with industrial-grade security is chosen. In this approach, multiple levels of access control including authentication (network-based, device-based and host-based) and authorisation checkpoints are set up with due support for integrity check as well as relevant monitoring and traffic management.
Security within the aircraft itself may be further strengthened by zone-based partitioning and provisioning of non-interfering frequency usage for intra-airliner connectivity over Wi-Fi (using IEEE 802.11 variants like ‘g’ or ‘n’ underneath with WPA-PSK or alternative security configuration) in addition to the optional provision for switched Ethernet-based wireline connectivity (by using IEEE 802.3 variants, usually ‘u’ or ‘z’). IEEE 802.1x or other competing security options are also employed.
A good part of such provisions benefits from cryptographic solutions for authentication, integrity check, support for non-repudiation and more.
Segments of ground-to-satellite, satellite-to-satellite, satellite-to-aircraft and groundto-ground communication networks are handled differently, both in terms of underlying protocols and security.