Boeing Still Used Floppy Disks to Update the Software in Its 747s

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These of us who’ve been all over and making use of technology for a even though recall the era of floppy disks. You know, they appear like “save” icons, but they had been real parts of plastic with magnetic media within that stored a trivially little amount of data. You may possibly not use floppies any longer, but some industries are stuck with the technology of yesteryear—for instance, airlines. British Airways not too long ago retired its fleet of 747s, giving us a prospect to see how its floppy-primarily based software program update method is effective. It’s a real blast from the previous. 

The Boeing 747-400 aircraft very first entered provider in the late 1980s when 3.5-inch floppy disks had been continue to reducing edge with a whopping 1.44 MB of formatted storage space. These planes price tag tens of millions of bucks, but upgrading methods is a tricky organization in aircraft. The first avionics personal computer continue to is effective, so British Airways hardly ever bothered to exchange them in its planes.

The 747 has been a main section of British Airway’s fleet more than the yrs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically minimized the demand from customers for air travel — retiring these more mature planes produced perception. Safety agency Pen Test Partners had a prospect to poke all over 1 of the continue to-purposeful aircraft. As section of the virtual DEF CON 28 event, you can acquire a tour of a not too long ago retired 747-400. The total 10-minute walkthrough is really worth a observe, but you can skip right to the floppy disk little bit at about 7:45 if you would like. 

The avionics loader is in the cockpit underneath a protective panel. According to Pen Test, the software program needed an update each individual 28 times so the airplane would know the present-day position of all airports, flight paths, runways, and so on. Because floppy disks retail store so small data, a usual update package would be unfold more than eight disks. An engineer had to check out every single airplane on a monthly foundation to load all individuals disks. British Airways is not done with floppies, possibly. The airline continue to has lots of 737 planes with a identical diskette-primarily based avionics method. 

Fashionable aircraft have remotely configurable avionics methods that are much fewer monotonous to update. Having said that, they also need enhanced protection, specially in planes that have networked infotainment products in each individual seat. Researchers have lengthy probed these kinds of methods for vulnerabilities that would deliver access to vital aircraft methods, but no 1 has managed to do additional than break their individual in-seat method. It’s possible a couple of corrupted floppy disks would do the trick?

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