A hoaxer found a way to hack radio transmissions to Australian pilots and air-traffic controllers

Photo: William West/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Federal police are hunting a hoaxer who made 15 illegal radio transmissions to air-traffic controllers and domestic passenger pilots last month.

While authorities believe an individual is responsible for the hack, it identifies a serious security flaw in Australia’s air traffic control systems.

John Lyons, president of Virgin Independent Pilots Australia, said that a person with the right knowledge using a simple VHF radio equipment could tap the transmissions.

“It’s not hard for someone to obtain,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that spend a lot of time observing aircraft at airports, and many of them have radios that monitor frequencies. But most of them just listen.

“In a worst case scenario, an aircraft will be told to go around, but there’s an aircraft on a runway crossing that runway.”

Encrypted frequencies, like those used by police, aren’t used by air traffic control should they need respond quickly to an incident.

Business Insider contacted the Australian Communications and Media Authority to find out the technicalities behind how airlines use radio frequencies to communicate. A spokesperson declined to comment, saying no further comments would be made in order to prevent “copycats”.

Airservices Australia, the government-owned organisation responsible for aviation traffic at major airports, also declined to comment.

The organisation is currently in the process of laying off 900 workers.

The AFP is yet to make any arrests in relation to the hacking but warns the offender could face 20 years in jail.

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