A security researcher revealed a flaw in commonly used air traffic control software that would allow an attacker to create an unlimited number of phantom flights.
According to Andrei Costin, $2,000 in equipment and "modest tech skills" are enough to throw an air traffic control system of virtually any airport into complete disarray. The ADS-B system that is used across the world is vulnerable as it does not verify that incoming traffic signals as genuine.
Costin says that a hacker could inject flights that do not exist and could confuse an air controller station. Air controllers could cross-check flights with flight schedules, but if the number of phantom flights is high enough, there is no way that cross-checks would work. Consider it like an DoS attack on an air traffic control system.
Costin noted that rogue signals from the ground can be generally identified and ruled out as malicious signals, but there is no way to do the same for robotic aircraft, for example. He also noted that data sent from airplanes to air traffic controllers is unencrypted and can be captured by unidentified sources. Since this applies to any aircraft, it is in theory possible to deploy airplane tracking devices to track specific aircraft.