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A Novel Security Model for Aircraft Crew Authentication & Message Integrity in Aeronautical Data Link Communications


Amjad Ali, Walid Shawbaki


Vol. 12  No. 10  pp. 150-157


Increased demand on air travel worldwide is driving increase in travel capacity, which affects current departure, arrival, and air route structure in the National Airspace System (NAS) in the United States. The ongoing transformation of current air traffic control to net centric architecture to support higher capacity will have higher dependency on information sharing via data link connectivity between aircraft cockpit and ground controllers, which is an expansion to today’s voice communication. Aircraft to be a node in the sky on the aeronautical infrastructure network, and similar to any other network; this will be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could be far serious to safety of flight that affect civil air transportation system as one of the enablers to the nations’ economy. An assessment of cyber-attacks risks by domestic and foreign entities against civil air transportation system need to be always in place and updated regularly for such critical infrastructure supporting the air traffic flow and control. Several protections available to provide security to ground segments of the aeronautical network supporting air traffic control, and the same measures provided for systems onboard aircraft; however, connectivity via the aeronautical radios between aircraft in the air and ground segment of the aeronautical network is the center of discussion in this paper. Existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and policies do not specifically address the security for the voice and data link connectivity between aircraft and ground control network, and cyber attackers do not have a limitation on their areas of attacks, and such security need to be part of the safe operation of civil aviation. Within this paper, brief review of current NAS and the plan for transformation to net centric operation presented showing where the aircraft fit in the new aeronautical network. The Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA) in addition to Authentication and Non-Repudiation model for secure operation considered the basis for the solution with focus on authentication of the aircrew in command during flight and integrity of message (i.e. Flight Plan & Clearances) being communicated between aircraft and ground. The model for the solution based on implementing separate and parallel data capable radio as the conduit to for authentication and integrity check of Air to Ground(A/G) and Ground to Air (G/A)messages communicated over the main aeronautical data link capable radios.


Crew Authentication, aeronautical data link integrity, NextGen, SESAR, Aeronautical Cyber Security.