Boeing 747s Receives Updates Through Floppy Disks

  • AUTHOR: dua
  • POSTED ON: August 12, 2020

Boeing’s 747-400 aircraft was first introduced in 1988, but it is interesting to know that it is still managing to receive critical software updates with the help of 3.5-inch floppy disks.

Sources have revealed that security researchers at Pen Test Partners quite recently got access to a British Airway’s 747 – this, of course, happened after the airline retired its fleet following the plummet in traveling during the pandemic.

Do you know that the team was able to investigate a complete avionics bay beneath the passenger’s deck, that too with its data centre like racks of modular black boxes that operate many tasks for the plane?

Floppy disks drive found in the cockpit are used to load important navigation information. This database is updated after every 28 days with at least one engineer visiting every month with the most recent updates.

The database found on these 3.5-inch floppy disks is increasing in size day by day. This seems to be an individual choice for airlines because some choose to continue the use of floppy disks whereas others have countered the option and chosen other devices.

It’s true that most modern planes choose to adopt latest and sophisticated technologies. In addition, security researchers have found interest in learning how planes protect passengers from interfering flights.

Security is still one of the most relevant concerns when it comes to in-flight entertainment systems. One of the cybersecurity researchers recently found a buffer overflow being exploited onboard. This happened last year on a British Airway flight. This researcher was able to utilize a USB mouse so as to insert long strings of text into the in-flight chat app. This isn’t because these security researchers are still looking into defects and vulnerabilities that could potentially allow them to communicate with flight systems with publicly accessible parts of planes.

New planes like Boeing’s 777X and 787 mainly utilize fiber networks – this is where most of the avionics plug into networks that are controlled by a pair of external computers by the critical software of flight. Hence, the latest aircrafts can receive software updates while being up in the air. However, we must not divert attention because these systems are still quite unreliable

Thus, it can be established that despite the winning streak of the latest technology, floppy disks have still survived.


Updated August 12, 2020
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