Entries with tag federal aviation administration.

Reuters: Memory Issue in Software Causes Problems in US Air Traffic Control System

A vulnerability in the US air traffic control system’s software, triggered by a military aircraft’s complicated flight plan, caused flight delays and could crash the system in the future, according to a new report by Reuters. On 30 April 2014, a US U-2 spy plane flew through the Western US. Its lack of altitude information in the flight plan as well as its complexity—which was circular rather than point-to-point as is typical for commercial flights—caused the Federal Aviation Administration’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) air-traffic-control software to register an operational error and cycle on and off. This process used much of the system’s memory, leaving it unavailable for other tasks, causing problems throughout the Western US including the grounding or delaying of flights in Los Angeles. Experts cited by Reuters contend that attackers could use the same vulnerability to crash the system, although doing so would be complicated. The FAA has added memory to ERAM and changed some of its rules in an effort to prevent such problems. Weaknesses in the system will be the subject of two Def Con hacker convention talks in August 2014. (Reuters)(BBC)

US Agency Mulling Changes in In-Flight Electronic-Device Use

A US Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel meeting this week is expected to recommend that the FAA eliminate  the requirement that passengers turn off and stow all electronic devices during commercial flights’ take-off and landing . Many current restrictions would be relaxed, allowing passengers to read e-books, listen to podcasts, play games, or watch videos. However, the prohibition activities requiring communication with ground-based systems—such as making phone calls, sending and receiving e-mails and text messages, and using Wi-Fi—would remain in place. The new policy is expected to be in place next year. (Ars Technica)(The New York Times)

US FAA Mulls Easing In-Flight Device Use

Those who have flown on American commercial airlines are familiar with flight attendant instructions to power down electronic devices for takeoff or landing. Soon, airline employees may be asking customers to use the device’s airplane setting instead. The Federal Aviation Administration appointed a working group to study portable electronic device use and may relax its rules to allow electronic reading devices even during takeoff and landing. There is reportedly no definitive evidence such devices affect a plane’s avionics. Although reader and tablet use is restricted, electric razor and audio recorder use is permitted. It is hoped that the group will formulate a single set of rules easily applicable, even to new types of personal electronic devices, especially as there are new devices for tracking daily activity and upcoming devices such as Google Glass. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says the agency’s stand is not consistent with its practice in light of it allowing iPads to be used as flight manuals and for some flight attendants to use devices holding information on flight procedures. She reportedly stated that “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.” According to The New York Times, “There have also been more episodes of unruly passengers who have been arrested or removed from planes for refusing to turn off their cellphones or iPads.” Any proposed changes would not include smartphones or cellular telephones. The group reportedly plans to introduce its findings by July 31. (Fox News)(The New York Times)

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