Monthly Archives: June 2010

Linux crash on a Plane!

I don’t travel nearly as as much as I used to, yet when I do I always keep a sharp eye out for the technical glitches in devices around me in travel environments. What can I say? It provides me endless amusement.

Linux crash plane

While Linux boxes crashing in airlines’ on-board entertainment systems are nothing new, and several photos exist on the Internet depicting these crashes, I’m seeing something different these days…

On my way back from ph-neutral security conference in Berlin, I took a Continental 757 back to the US and observed the passenger entertainment system headrest in the row in front of me was frozen on the the movie selection GUI. The passenger in that seat asked the flight attendant to fix the problem and the headrest PC was rebooted from somewhere up front.

So, the funny (and a bit scary perhaps) bit is the screenshot I took of the reboot process. You can see the very high resolution photo here:

Observations from the linux crash on a plane photo:

1. 172.17.X.X private IP address range

2. FTP server IP address and transfer of system log tarball to the FTP server…user is “xxxxx” — imagine what the password might be…

Some reasonable concerns:

1. Tilting up the headrest PC and peeking behind it I saw CAT-5 cable. With a small tool or hands, and big cajones, an attacker *could possibly* unplug that cable and attach it to a laptop and hop onto the entertainment network. In addition, with some imagination and the right tools, an attacker could feasibly take over some or all aspects of the headrest PCs, including perhaps the sniffing of credit cards used by patrons, or even adding some specialized content…

2. This aircraft did not have on-board wireless Internet access, but I suspect that some airlines offering this service could have network crossover connectivity to different subnets, or perhaps only relying on VLANs for separation.

In the end, we can only hope that of the several networks likely running on a modern passenger jet, that true air-gapping is taking place and these systems are in no way connected to critical on-board networks. Time will tell if this is indeed the case. In the meantime, keep an eye out for those Linux boxes crashing on planes!