One of the most sophisticated and popular fighter jets in the world, the F-35, is susceptible to hacking, an Israeli cyber expert revealed at a recently held cyber conference in Jerusalem.
Although it is not the first time that an F-35's capability to counter cyber threats has been questioned, experts at the conference said given the recent ransomware attacks, cyber threats that endanger human lives may not be far away. IMI Systems cyber director Major Oren Bratt, however, said instead of depending on software if hardware precautions are put in place such attacks can be prevented.
The F-35 is controlled by Lockheed's complex maintenance and support system known as ALIS, or Autonomic Logistics Information System. Experts have opined that ALIS has been given too much power and sometimes human intervention cannot overrule it.
Bratt said hackers could exploit vulnerabilities in this system and take control which will make the human pilot useless. To avoid this, it is crucial that the hardware remains functional even if a hack or defect has incapacitated its software.
To achieve this, a software alteration is not enough. From the inception of designing the hardware itself, the defences have to be thought about. Bratt mentioned that the current F-35s are being looked at for upgrading their defence system but did not divulge any details saying it is classified.
Recently, a deadly seat ejection flaw was fixed on the F-35A, almost two years after the problem was discovered. Post the recent ransomware attacks that took the world by storm, several cyber experts have warned about defence weapons being targeted by hackers in future including remote controlling of fleets like the F-35 and nuclear access codes.