MAY 11, 2009
Hackers have systematically broken into the crucial air traffic control systems operated by the federal agency in charge of aviation safety, repeatedly endangering the public.
In recent years unauthorized entities have easily breached the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic control mission support network as well as its critical servers. The dangerous breaches have led to serious system viruses and the shutting down of portions crucial to aviation safety.
The information was revealed in a lengthy report published this month by the Transportation Department’s Inspector General. Investigators found that, just last year, hackers took control of FAA servers and could have seriously disrupted the agency’s mission support network by shutting them down.
In Alaska, hackers took over FAA computers and became “insiders,” according to the report. In Oklahoma hackers stole an administrator’s password and installed malicious codes that compromised the FAA domain controller for the entire western pacific region.
Earlier this year hackers accessed the personal information—including Social Security numbers—of nearly 50,000 current and former FAA employees. A few years ago a virus spread to the air traffic control system shutting down portions of the network in one state.
This is simply the latest of several safety scandals at the FAA in recent years. In 2008 two FAA inspectors testified before a House Transportation Committee that they were threatened with dismissal after reporting a major U.S. airline’s serious safety violations to agency supervisors who had cozy relationships with the carriers.
A few years ago a congressional investigation blasted the FAA’s claims of drastically improved air safety, exposing record amounts of runway incursions at major airports around the nation. Investigators found that runway safety gains achieved earlier this decade have been eroded by overworked controllers and lack of leadership at the FAA.
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