Assessing Human Factors and Cyber Attacks at the Human-Machine Interface: Threats to Safety and Pilot and Controller Performance

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Mark MillerSam Holley

Abstract: The current state of automated digital information in aviation continues to expand rapidly as NextGen ADS-B(In) systems become more common in the form of Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) pad devices brought onto the flight deck. Integrated systems including satellites, aircraft, and air traffic control (ATC) data currently are not effectively encrypted and invite exposure to cyber attacks targeting flight decks and ATC facilities. The NextGen ATC system was not designed from the outset to identify and nullify cyber threats or attempts at disruption, and the safety gap has enlarged. Performance error at digital human-machine interfaces (HMI) has been well documented in aviation and now presents a potentially significant threat where the HMI can be more susceptible to human error from cyber attacks. Examples of HMI errors arising from digital information produced by automated systems are evaluated by the authors using HMI flaws discovered in recent Boeing 737-Max accidents. SHELL computer diagrams for both the digital flight deck and ATC facilities illustrate how the system is now interconnected for potential cyber threats and identifies how human factors consequences compromising HMI safety and operator performance present potential dangers. Aviation Safety and Reporting System (ASRS) data are examined and confirm HMI threats. The authors contrast various HMI errors with cyber attack effects on cognition, situational awareness, and decision making. A focused examination to assess cyber attack effects on cognitive metrics suggests cognitive clarity of operators is confounded when confronted with conflicting or confusing indications at the HMI. Difficulty in successfully identifying a cyber attack and the actions taken as human factors countermeasures are illustrated in the context of the HMI environment. The Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) is used to show how cyber attacks could occur and be addressed along with a dual-path solution.Keywords: NextGen, Cyber attack, SHELL, HMI, Cognitive load, HFACS

Keywords: NextGen, Cyber Threat, SHELL, Human-Machine Interface- Cognitive Load- Situational Awareness - HFACS

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1002204

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