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Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 22:25:03 -0400

From: Steve Bellovin <>

Subject: Remote control of airliners

The Associated Press reported on a test of a remotely-piloted 727. The utility of such a scheme is clear, in the wake of the recent attacks; to the reporter's credit, the article spent most of its space discussing whether or not this would actually be an improvement. The major focus of the doubters was on security.

But other experts suggested privately that they would be more concerned about terrorists' ability to gain control of these planes from the ground than to hijack them in the air. I'm sure RISKS readers can think of many other concerns, including the accuracy of the GPS system the tested scheme used for navigation (the vulnerabilities of GPS were discussed recently in RISKS), and the reliability of the computer programs that would manage such remote control.

seeking an informed answer here (although I think that the answer really lies in the same province as the guaranteed security of military data-links - whether that be achieved via frequency hopping or use of dual spectrum techniques).
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