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New aviation standards promote
next-generation network infrastructure and cybersecurity
News/ > 2020/ > New aviation standards promote next-generation network infrastructure and cybersecurity/
New aviation standards promote next-generation network infrastructure and cybersecurity
29 May 2020 Among the most prominent of the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee’s (AEEC) recent work is related to Draft 7 of ARINC Project Paper 686, «Roadmap for IPv6 Transition in Aviation.» This is the latest development in the committee’s work to establish the next generation internet protocol suite (IPS), which is a new network infrastructure based on internet protocol that promises to use commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products to support air-to-ground aeronautical safety services communications. It is in its earliest stages of development, with a targeted operational date of the mid to late 2020s.

«We have been working very closely with IATA, ICAO, EUROCAE, and RTCA to develop technical standards for a completely new aviation data communication infrastructure. ICAO Doc 9896, Manual on the Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) using Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) Standards and Protocol, is the foundational document,» Paul Prisaznuk, the AEEC executive secretary and program director, said.

The journey to this point began in 2017, when the executive committee first adopted a new activity dedicated to the development of an industry roadmap for the use of IPv6 in air-to-ground data communications used by avionics systems.

According to Cisco, IP is designed for use in identifying devices within interconnected systems of packet switched computer communication networks. With more than four billion unique IP addresses, IPv4 is the fourth revision of IP and the most widely deployed IP in use to connect devices to the internet. Cisco notes these IPs were completely allocated to specific geographic regions in 2011.

IPv6 is the next-generation IP designed to replace IPv4 and will allow more users and devices to communicate over the internet by using bigger numbers to create IP addresses. Whereas IPv4 addresses were 32 bits long, IPv6 addresses will be 128 bits long, according to Apple.

While IPv6 will continue to work in harmony with IPv4, the Internet Engineering Task Force first released the working standard for IPv6 in 1998. Like all other industries, aviation is ready to adopt the latest version. >>>
>>> «Private networks using the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) will be the backbone of this new aviation infrastructure. The networks will use IPv6 addressing and Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS). Data comm services will be migrating from ACARS to ATN/OSI and eventually ATN/IPS. In some cases, it will be possible to move directly to ATN/IPS and skip the intermediate steps,» Prisaznuk said. «Even though the transition period may be long, the expected end-state will yield efficient data comm services that will reduce the airlines’ reliance on voice communication and enable CNS/ATM automation to move to the next level.»

A joint in-person meeting (IATA, ICAO, EUROCAE, RTCA, AEEC) recently took place to move the concepts and standards forward, and an online meeting during March 9-13, 2020. ARINC Project Paper 858: Internet Protocol Suite for Aeronautical Safety Services — Technical Requirements is expected to be mature in late 2020 or early 2021, according to Prisaznuk. AEEC’s mid-term session in Seattle also featured the approval of data link standards changes with IPS related implications. In October, AEEC approved Supplement 4 to ARINC 758. These changes are designed to ease avionics interfaces with newer L-Band satellite and other Internet Protocol (IP) equipment for improved air-to-ground communications. The L-band and IP standards changes stem from September 2016, when AEEC published a proposal by Honeywell and Collins Aerospace — then Rockwell Collins — to change avionics standards to make them compatible with IP-based communication.

Supplement 4 is tasked with adding Ethernet ports as defined by ARINC Specification 664 Part 2. An example of enablement provided by the supplement is allowing an aircraft’s communications management unit to communicate with newer L-Band satellite communications equipment that has been recently introduced or in development, such as Iridium’s Certus multi-service communications platform designed to provide safety services communications, with two voice channels and aircraft communications and reporting system (ACARS) network data link connectivity simultaneously. >>>
>>> Another major IPS related standard being updated is ARINC 618, or the air-to-ground protocols that are used to link aircraft onboard systems with ACARS networks. That will come in the form of Supplement 9 to ARINC 618, which describes simple ACARS messaging over IP. Prisaznuk said the update will help develop an application that will use Ethernet interfaces between the CMU and the various transceivers. The transfer of ACARS messages using 'super blocks' instead of traditional ACARS message blocks will be defined.

New standard to enable single pair ethernet for avionics systems

The Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) is scheduled to release the ARINC 854 Cabin Equipment Network bus specification on May 12 — a standard that will help to open the doors to Single Pair Ethernet.

ARINC 854 «will enable the industry to implement Single Pair Ethernet,» Russ Graves, TE Connectivity's global aerospace business development manager, said during a May 7 webinar How Single Pair Ethernet Streamlines Aircraft Networks.

«TE is involved with the implementation of the physical layer of this standard,» Graves said. «We believe that this will establish Ethernet as a common bus system throughout the aircraft, as it's being used today. This will offer significant savings in regard to installation, weight, and space associated with moving from eight-wire and four-wire solutions to a two-wire solution — lower the complexity. Currently, we are implementing this over 100Base-T1 [100 megabits per second-Mbps], but we're provisioning our components to be able to stretch to the ultimate goal within the ARINC standard to achieve 1000Base-T1 [1 gigabit per second-Gbps]. It is compliant with the EWIS [Electrical Wiring Interconnect System] standards.»

While airline passengers and crews demand higher capabilities from in-flight entertainment (IFE), security monitoring, and other aircraft electronics, designers are unable to meet such demands with the current Ethernet physical layer standards, according to TE Connectivity. The automotive sector recently released its t00Base-T1 standard for Single Pair Ethernet — a standard to be referenced in ARINC 854.

TE Connectivity said that it has developed its Mini-ETH Single Pair Ethernet interconnection system to comply with the ARINC 854 standard for 100Base-T1. David Procter, a product manager for TE Connectivity, said during the May 7 webinar that «the availability of ready to install, plug and play Mini-ETH assemblies fully tested to meet the ARINC 854 requirements would offer a number of advantages, as well as cost savings over traditional custom design cable assemblies.» >>>
>>> The company said that Mini-ETH is qualified for 200 MHz and 100 Mbps operation at 15 m (49 ft) link lengths and that the company has a roadmap to support 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps data speeds at 40 m (131 ft) link lengths and frequencies over 750MHz, as well as new connector designs to support higher frequencies and speeds.

The use cases for 100Base-T1 Single Pair Ethernet provided by the AEEC Cabin Systems Subcommittee are to include cabin lighting control and passenger seat applications in bringing data to the screen or data to the passenger.

«Certainly, we expect that further use cases will be defined, as we move to a 1000Base state and applications that we could envision that would go outside of the cabin which would require some further ruggedization of our offering in those applications,» Graves said. «Potentially, you could also implement this with 1000Base architecture over slightly longer distances than what we envisioned in the 100Base standard so we are looking at new applications that would take this into other areas of the cabin and the aircraft. I'm seeing that some of the emerging applications in aerospace, including unmanned aerial vehicles, could be an excellent fit for this technology.»

Cockpit avionics are likely in the mix as well. «The ARINC cabin systems group is focusing inside of the cabin, and certainly avionics in the cockpit would be part of that,» Graves said. «The distances in the cockpit are relatively short so, to me, this Ethernet over Single Pair solution would be very suitable for cockpit applications.»

Single Pair Ethernet is needed to accommodate the ever increasing number of screens, sensors, data hubs, switches, solid-state drive (SSD) arrays, computers, IFE servers, and other electronics on aircraft, according to a TE Connectivity white paper, Advancing Aircraft Connectivity with a Single Pair Ethernet Solution. Without Single Pair Ethernet, excess wiring ends up affecting aircraft performance and the environment, the white paper said. >>>
>>> «All those electronics require a lot of wiring,» according to the white paper. «Excess weight significantly affects fuel performance. For example, consider a Boeing B747-400 wide-body aircraft flying a 5,000 nautical-mile average stage length for 3,000 flight hours per year. Carrying the weight of wiring and connectors (1,814 kg/4,000 lbs) consumes nearly 60,000 gallons of jet fuel every year. The annual cost for that amount of fuel comes to nearly $115,800. The CO₂ emitted by burning that much fuel amounts to 1,266,000 kg (2,791,049 lbs.) annually — equivalent to the emissions from 24 passenger vehicles. To be more sustainable, the aircraft cabin network has to evolve — becoming smarter while growing lighter.»

Will today’s cybersecurity guidelines and standards become mandates for connected aircraft systems?

This year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) may adopt AMC 20-42 (NPA 2019-1) that will link information security guidelines to the high-level cyber standards of RTCA DO-326A or the EUROCAE ED-202 series.

«RTCA DO-326A, 355 and 356 cybersecurity standards have been adopted slowly in the avionics industry, but I think we’ll see a more rapid adoption throughout this year and the coming year,» Alex Wilson, the director of aerospace and defense at Wind River, said.

«Currently, the standards are more voluntary or applied on a case by case basis on aircraft systems as they go into certification,» he said. «These standards have been around in embryonic form since the [Boeing] 787 [Dreamliner] first went through its airworthiness process [a decade ago].»

Wilson predicted that «once we see those standards being mandated through rules and regulations, we’ll start to see a massive adoption and a requirement of all new avionics systems to go through [these] standards.»

Such mandates may spark, or re-ignite, the operational red teaming of aircraft cyber systems.

Cyber vulnerabilities are not the exclusive domain of commercial airliners, but also are faced by military and business aircraft and future urban air mobility platforms and by diverse systems, such as onboard radar altimeters, Global Positioning System receivers, and military Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems.

Paul Hart, the chief technology officer at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, said that combat search and rescue helicopters can have up to 60 computers onboard to run flight control processes, such as take-off and landing, and complex synthetic vision systems, while UAVs normally have less than 10 processors for flight control and detect and avoid systems, and airliners «typically have more than 100 computing platforms.» >>>
>>> While e-Enabled aircraft provide flight and cost advantages for operators, they also come with cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

«The obvious question is, 'Isn’t it just safer to separate from the Internet?'« Wilson asked at the start of his webinar presentation. «Why should we e-Enable and connect our aircraft? There’s a whole list of reasons why we might want to do that. In this modern age, everyone is going through a process of digital transformation, moving to more intelligent platforms, and that gives us huge benefits in terms of operational efficiency, the ability to implement new advanced technologies, such as predictive maintenance so that we can reduce operational costs of our aircraft systems and allow us to update more efficiently the aircraft systems themselves, such as weather data on the aircraft and other data sources.»

«That also allows us to increase the amount of revenue we’re getting from our passenger systems and provide a better passenger experience while we fly,» Wilson said. «There are huge challenges when we look at aviation systems that are very different to those we see in the IT world. Within the IT world we tend to see applications moving to the Cloud-based systems and moving very quickly with new updates daily and new features and functionality. The security standards within the IT world are certainly not well suited to the aviation world so we need to think about how we manage that. Also, within the IT world we tend to see systems being updated very rapidly compared to the update cycle that we see within our aircraft. So there are lots of challenges as we start to connect and provide that Internet connectivity.»

Indeed, while relatively isolated ACARS and VHF video data links and, more recently ADS-B (In) and ADS-B (Out) were the major features of aircraft electronics, aircraft wireless connectivity has opened up a range of vulnerabilities, Hart said. Instead of leather flight bags with paper charts, aircrews now can carry aboard Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) tablets and iPads that are able, through aircraft Wi-Fi, to obtain flight parameters to calculate take-off performance, for example. Maintenance engineers can also connect wirelessly to avionics systems of flight line aircraft through laptop Portable Maintenance Aids (PMA) for troubleshooting aircraft systems. >>>
>>> To update its cybersecurity policy as new threats emerge, Wind River uses the CIA Triad technique, which maps requirements against the three pillars of cybersecurity: Confidentiality, sustaining data the privacy of data being transmitted and stored, such as map data; Integrity — the accuracy of data during and after software updates, for example; and Availability for the uninterrupted flow of data, even in the face of common denial of service cyber attacks.

Michael Mehlberg, vice president of marketing at Star Lab, a Wind River subsidiary, said that Wind River has adopted a cybersecurity first holistic approach through an examination of how cyber components interact with one another and a «defense in depth» with layers of cyber protection. Linux-based embedded systems, for example, while flexible, also have vulnerabilities, which Wind River mitigates through such means as operating system-level hardening, Linux LSM (Security-Enhanced Linux stacking), immutable deployment configurations, and multiple file systems, such as the authentication and/or encryption of applications, libraries, and data.

In addition, a secure boot process is a «massively important part of the cybersecurity process» to ensure no cyber intrusion happens while computer systems are at rest. «The security policy and configuration really has to be a combination of products, product features, advanced security features, professional services to provide and mitigate a security assessment and add additional security where required and a combination of partnerships, for instance the Curtiss-Wright hardware with the Wind River software, in order to implement a secure system,» Wilson said.

The upcoming EASA and FAA mandates may have implications for military systems as well.

Cybersecurity for military aircraft and legacy platforms is «one of the classic challenges we face in not just aircraft systems, but all systems,» Wilson said.

«A lot of these systems have really not been designed to be connected in the way we imagine, and so we are exposing them to more and more threats, as we start to connect them to the Internet or even to any communications system,» he said. «Adding a communications interface to an aircraft system or any system is really starting to open that out to vulnerabilities that weren't planned into the system when it was originally designed. For any legacy platforms or military aircraft, you have to think about what are the consequences of adding that connectivity.»

«In some cases, they already have communication links,» Wilson said. «We need to make sure that the communication links we are using have been secured in the right way for deployment in the field. We already know from experience that some very early unmanned aircraft systems that were deployed straight from the lab in effect into operational scenarios were exposed to security issues that hadn't been taken into account.» >>>
>>> «As we start to think about security more and more and start to implement security across all embedded systems, in fact all computer systems, and we become more aware about how security operates, we need to figure out how we protect all of these types of systems,» he said. «If you are going to connect a legacy platform to the network, instantly that opens that vulnerability up and you should go through a security assessment to see what vulnerabilities you would need to protect against through that data link. Are you using an encrypted data link, for example, to that system? Are you using secure boot on the data link to make sure nothing can infiltrate it and get in? All those kinds of techniques, we would have to figure out how we implement that, and of course that is going to have a cost effect on our systems.»

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