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Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. civilian aviation system early in 2017 as part of the broad attack on the nation’s sensitive infrastructure, according to a consortium designed to protect the industry.
The attack had limited impact and the industry has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the intrusion, Jeff Troy, executive director of the Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said Friday. Troy declined to identify specific companies or the sector of the aviation industry that was victimized.
“It hit a part of our very broad membership,” Troy said. The intrusion wasn’t something that would directly harm airplanes or airlines, he said. “But I did see that this impacted some companies that are in the aviation sector,” he said.
Troy’s group, also known as A-ISAC, represents aircraft manufacturers, equipment suppliers, satellite builders, airports and airlines, among other elements of the broad industry. Similar groups monitoring cyber-attacks across more than a dozen sectors of the economy were formed by a presidential directive in 1998 and were beefed up several years later after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The trade group Airlines for America declined to comment on the report.
A disruption of the airline and private-aircraft systems could have enormous economic and psychological effects. In recent years, several airlines have had to halt operations and suffered millions of dollars of lost revenue when their computer reservation systems crashed, for example. Terrorists have long targeted aviation because of its out-sized impact on society.
The broader Russian attack was aimed at the electric grid, water processing plants and other targets, U.S. government officials said Thursday in the first official confirmation that Russia was behind the effort. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation identified aviation as one of the segments that were attacked, but didn’t provide specifics.
Bloomberg News reported in July that Russian hackers had breached more than a dozen power plants in seven states, an aggressive campaign that has since expanded to dozens of states, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
–With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Michael Riley
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.