Hacking aircraft for fun and profit

Modern commercial jets make use of AFDX networks for sending and receiving control and sensor data. The AFDX protocol is based on Ethernet, and (if you’re familiar with the OSI model) is identical up to layer 2. This means two things. First, that AFDX traffic can be (mostly) routed by standard Ethernet hardware. And second, that Ethernet software tools can (sometimes) be used to troubleshoot and hack AFDX networks.

The problem is that such tools are not designed to handle a number of the things that AFDX does. AFDX is deterministic, redundant, and more fault-tolerant than standard Ethernet. And so you generally need specialized hardware and software to interface with AFDX.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A laptop’s Ethernet port should be able to read and write AFDX traffic just fine. The only reason that it cannot is that it doesn’t understand the upper level protocols. There have been a few projects to rectify this, and they have made use of the WinPcap libraries for low-level traffic reads and writes. And then they stopped there, because those involved were happy to leave it at the C-code level and lock it away behind corporate-secrecy firewalls.

I was somewhat less than happy with this, and so I’ve written a suite of LabVIEW libraries that can hijack a PC’s Ethernet port [note to the NSA: when I say “hijack”, I’m talking about taking control of an Ethernet port, not an airplane] and read, write, and otherwise manipulate AFDX traffic. If I get clearance to do so from my client, I’ll open source these libraries. And maybe write an article on it. I’m really hoping that I can share this with the world in some way because it’s a really neat thing and fills an as-of-yet-unfilled niche.

Stay tuned for details!

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