Boeing received a U.S. patent in December for a system that simulates a cyberattack within an airplane to detect pilot response and realistically determine how that response affects the airplane’s operations, with the ultimate aim of strengthening an aircraft's defenses against cyberattacks.
According to the patent, the system proposed is highly adaptable, and the components it simulates can be substituted to reflect the many component configurations on airplanes. The cyberattack-specific aspect of the overall invention can also be added to an existing simulator or built into a distinct simulator.
The primary purpose of the invention is to gather information about how a pilot responds to a cyberattack. According to the inventors, “pilot reaction to cyberattacks is important.” They believe this data is missing in existing models of the impact of cyberattacks on airplanes and that by gathering such data researchers can create better defenses for airplane cyberattacks.
These simulators might also be used to understand how a cyberattack actually affects airplane operations and determine whether a pilot is even able to detect a cyberattack.
Boeing plans to allow pilots to begin testing on cyberattack simulator prototypes, and then use information gathered to improve pilot training. The gathered data will also likely be integrated into existing and future Boeing efforts to secure avionics.