Security of Avionics Communication Systems

Hermes 900 HFE Drone des VBS

Image copyright: ©VBS/DDPS – ZEM


This project started in May 2015 and has been successfully completed.


Prof. Dr. Srdjan Capkun (ETH)
Daniel Moser (Armasuisse)
Dr. Vincent Lenders (Armasuisse)

Industry partner



Next-generation avionics communication systems were — in the majority — standardised several decades ago, when only the most apt attackers were able to even receive aircraft signals. Therefore, security was not on the radar of the standardisation bodies who mainly focused on the safety impact of these protocols. This mismatch between safety and security led to systems that would keep the aircraft operating in a safe manner, even if individual systems failed.

Additionally, military and commercial (e.g. Amazon, Swiss Post) drones will in the intermediate future coexist with civilian aircraft in public airspace. This coexistence requires unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to handle civilian aircraft communication in addition to the communication channels that control the drone.

This forest of communication system is a possible target for manipulation, eavesdropping and more advanced attacks. Any manipulation of the individual systems might lead to unforeseen consequences, as human intervention might be inhibited by an attacker.

In this project, we investigate the security of many different (mostly wireless) communication protocols. We will examine novel attacks against GPS technology and also take a look at the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) employed by civilian aircraft and future drone systems. Further, we want to review satellite communication which serves as a backbone for medium and large sized drone systems as well as a multitude of commercial aircraft.

The target of this project is to research the security and privacy of today’s aircraft and UAV communication systems and, where possible and applicable, propose changes to ensure the safety and security of tomorrow’s flight operations.


Daniel Moser, Vincent Lenders and Srdjan Capkun
Digital Radio Signal Cancellation Attacks – An Experimental Evaluation
ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (WiSec), Miami FL, USA, May 2019

Daniel Moser, Giorgio Tresoldi, Christof Schüpbach and Vincent Lenders
Design and Evaluation of a Low-Cost Passive Radar Receiver Based on IoT Hardware
IEEE Radar Conference (RadarConf), Boston, Massachusetts USA, April 2019