Raytheon Addresses ‘Electronic Armor’ Cyber Defense for Aircraft Avionics
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — Raytheon is developing a system to protect aircraft from cyber intrusion of its systems, a company official said.
“As an immature warfare area, [cyber] is changing all the time,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Bill Leigher, director of Raytheon’s government cyber security solutions business and a former deputy commander of U.S. Tenth Fleet, told Seapower Feb. 10. He said the company is developing the Avionics Intrusion Detection System after research and development conducted last year on shipboard cyber defense systems.
“A cyber warning receiver is an idea about to get to that thinking about how do you start to provide protections to these non-IT [information technology] systems,” Leigher said, noting that the company is developing cyber defense for the 1553 data bus structure, commonly used in U.S. military aircraft.
“The 1553 bus structure is a real-time structure that prioritizes all of the information that’s flowing to and from every sensor, every control surface on the aircraft,” he said. “If an adversary could get access to that, no doubt that they could impact the mission effectiveness of an aircraft.
“To detect something, it is a straightforward event,” Leigher said, noting that the signals going through a control system are well understood and that if a sensor detects an unwanted signal, it can prevent it from proceeding further in the system.
“Last year, we wanted to understand what it takes to characterize the threat environment,” he said, with the company testing defense of shipboard signals “from helm to rudder.”
“We showed how a cyber attacker could penetrate a system like that — an unsecured system — and then we worked with a teammate [Bayshore Networks] to put a control box in line that does very much the same thing,” he said. “It does inspections of that traffic that goes from the helm — on an IP [Internet Protocol] circuit in this case — back to the rudder. When I turn the ship’s helm right, it ensures that the ship is only going to go to starboard. When you try to scale these capabilities up, they have a lot of applications across the ship.
“Bayshore Networks helped us reimagine that in a way that what was designed as a safety device can also be used as a cyber security device,” he said.
Raytheon is looking for solutions applicable to existing systems.
“It’s prohibitively expensive to go back and do deep inspection of all the legacy code and make sure that it can’t be hacked,” Leigher said. “In some cases, we’re going to want to do that, [the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine, for example].”
Latency — a solution slowing down a system’s performance — is an issue that Raytheon is trying to mitigate.
“It’s one of things you’ve got to pay attention to so that you do not degrade performance,” Leigher said. “You would not want to do that on a jet.”
He also stressed the governing issues of size, weight and power, particularly in aircraft systems.
“Generally, the desire is to have it integrated into the software,” he said. “We’ve looked at other resiliency capabilities some,” including solutions that “bind the hardware and the software together so the software won’t operate in an unauthorized state and vice versa.”