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The GAO report did not provide details of any specific vulnerability affecting any specific aircraft. Rather, GAO cited FAA personnel and experts, saying that the possibility exists that "unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems," in part by moving between Internet-connected in-flight entertainment systems and critical avionics systems in the aircraft cabin.
Security researchers have long warned that hackers could jump from in-flight entertainment systems in the passenger cabin to cockpit avionics systems if airlines did not take proper precautions, such as so-called "air gapping" the networks. At last year's Black Hat Briefings, researcher Ruben Santamarta of IOActive demonstrated a method of hacking the satellite communications equipment on passenger jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems.
Andrew "bunnie" Huang argues that Moore's Law is slowing and will someday stop, but the death of Moore's Law will spur innovation. "Someday in the foreseeable future, you will not be able to buy a better computer next year," writes Huang. "Under such a regime, you'll probably want to purchase things that are more nicely made to begin with. The idea of an "heirloom laptop" may sound preposterous today, but someday we may perceive our computers as cherished and useful looms to hand down to our children, much as some people today regard wristwatches or antique furniture."
Vaclav Smil writes about "Moore's Curse" and argues that there is a dark side to the revolution in electronics for it has had the unintended effect of raising expectations for technical progress. "We are assured that rapid progress will soon bring self-driving electric cars, hypersonic airplanes, individually tailored cancer cures, and instant three-dimensional printing of hearts and kidneys. We are even told it will pave the world's transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies," writes Smil. "But the doubling time for transistor density is no guide to technical progress generally. Modern life depends on many processes that improve rather slowly, not least the production of food and energy and the transportation of people and goods."
Finally, Cyrus Mody tackles the question: what kind of thing is Moore's Law? "Moore's Law is a human construct. As with legislation, though, most of us have little and only indirect say in its construction," writes Mody. "Everyone, both the producers and consumers of microelectronics, takes steps needed to maintain Moore's Law, yet everyone's experience is that they are subject to it."
Automating that job may save money. But will passengers ever set foot on plane piloted by robots, or humans thousands of miles from the cockpit? In written testimony submitted to the Senate last month, the Air Line Pilots Association warned, "It is vitally important that the pressure to capitalize on the technology not lead to an incomplete safety analysis of the aircraft and operations." The association defended the unique skills of a human pilot: "A pilot on board an aircraft can see, feel, smell or hear many indications of an impending problem (PDF) and begin to formulate a course of action before even sophisticated sensors and indicators provide positive indications of trouble." Not all of the scientists and engineers believe that increasingly sophisticated planes will always be safer planes. "Technology can have costs of its own," says Amy Pritchett. "If you put more technology in the cockpit, you have more technology that can fail.""