Plane hack 'a matter of time' - US government

The US government warns it's only a matter of time before an airliner is cyber attacked, with research showing the hack could lead to "catastrophic disaster".

Documents obtained by Vice show security officials are in a race against time to uncover and protect vulnerabilities in commercial aircraft.

"Potential of catastrophic disaster is inherently greater in an airborne vehicle," one document read.

"[It's] a matter of time before a cyber security breach on an airline occurs."

In 2016, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) team successfully hacked a Boeing 757 by using radio frequency communications.

Robert Hickey, from the Cyber Security Division of the DHS, said his team had "accomplished a remote, non-cooperative penetration".

And in 2015, a passenger managed to hack into a plane's Wi-Fi network from onboard the plane.

Aviation security expert Brad Haines says not enough has been done to protect the planes from cyber attacks.

"Anyone with a TV tuner can listen in to raw position data and other telemetry from planes directly. The threat models never anticipated this," he told The Daily Beast.

"The airline industry should have paid attention to hackers about half a decade ago. We were ahead of the curve and we were dismissed at their own peril."