Hackers broke into US air traffic control computers on several occasions over the past few years and increased reliance on Web applications and commercial software has made networks more vulnerable, according to a government audit.
Among the breaches was an attack on a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer in February 2009 in which hackers gained access to personal information on 48,000 current and former FAA employees, the report said.
In 2006, it said, a viral attack on the Internet spread and forced the FAA to shut down some of its air traffic control (ATC) systems in Alaska.
The audit was conducted by an assistant inspector general in the US Transportation Department and released this week. A copy of the report was obtained by Internet news agency CNET and posted online.
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“The need to protect ATC systems from cyber attacks requires enhanced attention because the (FAA) has increasingly turned toward the use of commercial software and Internet Protocol-based technologies to modernize ATC systems,” the report said.
It said the use of commercial software and Web applications may increase efficiency but “inevitably poses a higher security risk to ATC systems than when they were developed primarily with proprietary software.”