The Ministry of Communications held an emergency meeting on Wednesday following Israel Hayom's revelation that planes are diverted to a long runway at Ben Gurion Airport, because unknown elements disrupt GPS signals and prevent pilots from landing on a shorter runway. Israel Hayom has learned that it has been decided to hold an urgent discussion at the ministry to examine solutions to the phenomenon.
The phenomenon of blocking GPS signals is not new, but its recent increase is reflected in aviation maps, in which it is clear how most of the planes are directed to the long runway that passes over the communities of Hasmonean, Ma'ale Adumim, Kfar Lapid and Kfar HaOranim.
Unusual incident at Ben Gurion Airport: Passengers asked to prostrate themselves on the floor // Avi Ifergan
Eitan Friedman, backup and data protection consultant at Dell Technologies, explains that while this is a challenge, the technology can be used to impersonate a satellite, thereby impairing GPS reception. "If someone manages to impersonate a satellite and transmit the wrong location, the location receiver can be confused. Organizing an attack like the one reported on the location of planes requires a great deal of knowledge and experience, and it is reasonable to assume that the attack is a state attack – one that knows how air transportation works, and knows how to interface with it at the right points."
"It is unlikely that the attack is carried out solely for economic purposes such as ransomware attacks, and it seems that the goal is to cause chaos in air traffic, as any aircraft that loses location is required to verify it again by more traditional means such as the use of ground stations, and even to the point of navigating old school with maps. It is clear that such an attack wants to send a clear message that given the moment, the attacker's long hand will reach very far and deep."
Passengers on a plane, Photo: Getty Images
Footage sent by a Hasmonean resident clearly shows a plane lowering to land over his home, making a huge noise. Since all the planes are directed to the same runway, they pass day and night over the communities, causing deep frustration among their distraught residents.
"I suffer a lot from the noise," T. said after the publication in Israel Hayom. "Today, the landings started at 5:00 a.m., and it sometimes lasted until <> a.m. The planes fly above us at low altitude, just above the houses, sometimes at a murderous pace every two minutes, and opening their wheels causes a terrifying noise. It is unclear why the Airports Authority is not willing to divert the runway north. We are talking about more than <>,<> residents who suffer every day. Apparently, only an appeal to the High Court of Justice will move something," T. raged.
Reviews have, replies none
In an audit report published in November 2022 on civil aviation safety, State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman warned that the tools at the Airports Authority's disposal are not effective enough to provide an optimal response to dealing with electronic obstructions.
Landing hall at Ben Gurion Airport, where Nasrallah lives, photo: Ami Shumen
According to the report, the head of operations at one of the Israeli airlines contacted the PA as early as June 2019 and expressed reservations about the actions it took in cases where electronic jams occurred. The response of the Authority's deputy director of operations indicated that there are "certain gaps regarding electronic interference and blockages."
In a discussion held with him by the State Comptroller's Office, the deputy director general of operations noted that the authority is examining the purchase of a system that will transmit additional data, including the location of the aircraft. "Together with the acquisition of the new radars," he added, "alternative data will be obtained to warn in cases of obstructions."
Comptroller Engelman recommended that the Airports Authority refine its procedures and methods of action for dealing with roadblocks, and continue to examine, together with the Civil Aviation Authority, new ways and technologies for coping. The report also recommended that the Authority inform the airlines of the actions taken to address the roadblocks, and that the Air Force and the Authority increase their cooperation on the issue.
Cyber (illustrative), photo: Reuters
In another report, published in December 2022, the State Comptroller examined cybersecurity in the transportation sector, including in the aviation industry. The audit found that there is a "fundamental structural and functional problem with regard to preparedness for cyber threats in the transportation sector."
Among other things, it was found that the Ministry of Transport does not have a complete picture of the state of cyber defense of the various transportation bodies, and there is no congruence between the threats and responses to them in the entire sector and the resources of the Ministry of Transport. The Comptroller called on the Ministry of Transport and the Cyber Directorate to ensure that transportation infrastructures, particularly critical infrastructures, regularly assess risks and improve their resilience to possible cyberattacks.
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