Skip to main content

Heathrow Airport Departures Hacked

kiosk in more hacked airport

The Heathrow Airport of London is considered one of the most secure international airport of the world but nevertheless it has been hacked.

Recently the increasing terrorist threats, that make it an high risk target, brought to make more strict the security policy in force, with very accurate check-in procedures and continuous vigilance within the whole airports perimeter. In fact the level of attention for what concerns the physical security is sufficiently high, not the same seems to be for the information structures and IT security, as for instance at the Heathrow Airport Departures (but the same is valid for the Heathrow Terminals International Arrivals) few kiosks were been hacked.

One of our users has lately found something very interesting about that, in particular about the kiosks in airport, just like a hacked airport game, airport madness at the kiosk, customers data and privacy data were affected by a 0-day vulnerability.

Recently Honest (this is the nick of our affectionate user) has discovered (at London Heathrow Terminal 5) by a chance that the information/internet system used by customers of the London airport is not so safe, but easily vulnerable to hacker attacks (in the literally meaning, not in the overused and misinterpreted media one). Let's start from the beginning.

Few days ago Honest contacts me to ask if we'd be interested to public an article on what he defines a real "scoop" about Heathrow Airport Terminals IT security. One more hacked airport.

Obviously this raised my curiosity and so Honest starts to tell me how he has found just for chance that some of the pc of Heathrow are highly exposed to external breach's risks. In fact, he keep saying, on these pc (that are most probably installed by external providers in free concession) anyone could conduct different type of digital attacks that aim to take the machine's control and turn it in a internet bot or a bridge, with a serious information security risk for whom used that machine and left sensitive data on it.

These computers are, indeed, dedicated to the customers use to surf paying through credit card. It's easy to think, thou, that every user would inset the personal credit card code, log in an email account, digit password and so on; sensitive data that, as the machine's low protection, would be easily grabbed and used for wrongful scopes. Honest assures to be able to provide the necessary acknowledgement to demonstrate what he said about the "hacked airport games" at the kiosk in airport.

Granted that I don't know personally Honest and, before this occasion, we have never been in touch. About him I know just what he has told of himself: Honest is italian and works in the IT security field.

For this reason I didn't consider immediately reliable his information, or at least give myself the benefit of the doubt, asking to our "sneak" for more details. Therefore Honest gives me the link of an image on a foreign server that represents a incriminated machine's screenshot; clearly this is not sufficient to give plain credit to his story, that still needs a due check.

But in the deep, how does Honest discover this information leak of the system of one of the most important airport in the world? In the barest way,let's say: Honest, transiting in the london hub, decides to use one of the computer to surf and perchance gets access to a window of Internet Explorer, simply because the software generates an unexpected pop-up after an error, bypassing in this way the dedicated portal that it's supposed to inhibit the execution of the other programs of the pc.

By that the Honest's curiosity takes soon the upper hand: he starts to verify a set of conditions; at the end of his "exploration" he is totally surprised by the exposition level of a machine that can potentially cause a big damage to the information security of London's Heathrow airport.

Those terminals are not owned by the airport itself, but by an external company provider ( in new window) that sells the service, but this doesn't change the responsibility of whom proposes the service to the public of the customers (passengers and airport personnel).

Honest, indeed, clears that on the machine used by him it's not only possible "getting around" the access, surfing for free instead that paying, but also installing different type of software, having access to the file system, turning it in a bot to intercept IP traffic or sniff access credential, or in a bridge with the extern. It's important to highlight once again the prime responsibility goes specifically to Spectrum Interactive that has provided the machines and keeps their maintenance.

This article comes up from an analysis conducted on some of the machines present in

Heathrow airport

, and so it's absolutely not sure that the vulnerabilities found are valid for all the other machines installed by the same provider, Spectrum Interactive, for the airport and in general for all its other clients.

Below it's reported the technical analysis made by Honest with the relative evidences that confirm the vulnerabilities found.

File listing:

Through Internet Explorer it's possible to access to all the hacked airport's computer files.

Information Disclosure:

Some of the files used for the system deployment contain useful information to conduct more sophisticated attacks at the Heathrow airport.

Command execution:

It was possible to execute commands on the machine through MsDos window.

Indeed, through a Gmail box dialog it's was possible to upload the file, modify a link on the desktop in order to recall the file command.comopen in new window.

Through the MsDos window it was allowed to visualize different computer information: IP address Computer's name Installed softwares Windows Patch Moreover, always by using the internet explorer box dialog, it was possible installing softwares.

In the specific this technique permits to install:

  • Keyloggers
  • Sniffer
  • Back Door
  • Malware
  • Etc...

Hacked Airport Remote Access

The public address used by every machine is reachable remotely.

This means that external attacks are feasible and also the back door's use can ensure the access by external users. These simple vulnerabilities make these computers completely under control of hypothetical bad-intentioned users and represent a big problem for the privacy of all the unaware internet users within the airport.

At the moment of the publication of this article, the security managers of Heathrow and of the service provider company have been already alerted of the case, as Honest affirms. Therefore probably these machines have been just dismissed. (kiosk in airport)

Moral of the hacked airport story:

We hope that after the publication of this article Heathrow's management will realize that protecting their users, even from the Information technology point of view, is just as important as ensuring their physical security; therefore we strongly hope that the Spectrum Interactive will increase the level of attention providing their products through adopting more accurate security checks.

We consider important editing this article with the aim of warn all those who, through PC whose the level of security is not known or sure, access to their e-mail account or simply introduce sensitive data, like their credit card number, to brows in Internet or make online transactions.

Indeed, you may enter your data on computers, such as those ones in Heathrow, which could be used by ICT expert to conduct actions absolutely illegitimate or not legal. It's very important that everyone become aware of the main issues relating to information security and is educated to adopt a greater attention