Monday, July 10, 2017

Wi-Fi on Indian planes: Are cyber-security fears too tough to tackle?

New Delhi: The fear of cyber attacks on planes is holding back the Indian government from allowing Wi-Fi on board aircraft, however, private players say the security framework sought by authorities is neither impossible nor unusual.

This explains why a top officer at the civil aviation ministry, which mooted the proposal, recently expressed his frustration over the delay by the home ministry in giving its nod and compared India with North Korea.

"India is perhaps the only country other than North Korea, which does not allow in-flight Wi-Fi services. Even international airlines flying over India have to switch off Wi-Fi when they travel over India...Security agencies are still not convinced," he said.

Before airlines in India can be permitted to provide Wi- Fi, the prerequisite laid down by the government is for intercept capability to which Indian authorities have end-to- end audit and control.

"From our perspective this is not very different from what we see at many jurisdictions where cybersecurity or use of information technology for malicious purpose is an area of concern. The Indian government has demanded a framework at par with international standards. These are solutions that are neither unseen nor unimplemented," CEO, SITAONAIR, David Lavorel.
In order to get a first hand experience of how Wi-Fi is enabled on a plane, PTI recently travelled onboard Honeywell's Connected Aircraft, which was in New Delhi last week as part of its world tour. Since May this year it has travelled to Dallas, Mexico City, Panama City, Toronto, New York, London and Paris.

For in-flight Wi-Fi, Honeywell's satellite communications hardware is fitted on the aircraft so it can receive true broadband class connectivity via Inmarsat satellites, whose Global Xpress Service is powered by three Ka-band satellites and claim to provide four times the bandwidth available through Ku-band.

The hardware includes an antenna on an aircraft. Inside the aircraft there are three boxes, the size of a set-top-box, which include a KA-band frequency unit, KA-band aircraft network data unit and a modem manager.

"No one can hack into this network unless you are given access to this frequency. As far as the boxes are concerned no one can tap into them because there are security communication protocols. However, concerns emerge when you have access to Internet," explains Inmarsat's Director, Airline Market Development for India, Middle East and Africa, Rash Jhanjee.
09/07/17 WION