What if the protection on planes is so bad that a passenger can use the inflight entertainment system to gain virtual access to the controls of the plane?
Suppose you are a security researcher and find this out. What do you do? Tell boeing! They... do nothing. Tell the airline! They.... do nothing.
It all starts with a belief issue. You hack into the entertainment system, compromise the firewall and see plane-control messages flying around on the network you now have gained access to. This is enough for a sufficiently technical person to be convinced of having gotten too far for comfort. At that point you know you are only one step away from taking control of the airplane.
Tell anybody less technical about it and they will not be convinced that you'd be able to move the plane. For example, today with this news today someone already voiced: "he might only THINK he moved the plane" (... while in fact the pilots initiated that maneuver).
So... to prove to the world that there indeed is a dangerous situation, you need to actually make the plane move.
And this is where everybody gets their panties in a knot. Suddenly the guy who reports that the planes are not secure enough is the bad guy and needs to be thrown in jail.
Examples of people reporting security problems and being ignored include: On a saturday night two men walking their dogs notice that the bank has left a window open. A person can just climb into.. the bank! So monday morning they walk into the bank, tell them about it, bank says thank you and... nothing happens. Next weekend, window is again left open. So they tell the bank again. And again. After a few times, to prove the point, they decide to climb in, and photograph what access they have once inside the bank. They got into a lot of trouble for that. But since then, the window has been closed.
Personally I have reported security problems in computers without going that extra mile of "making the plane move". In one instance I've reported such a misconfiguration to over 100 system administrators. Two hours later, saturday afternoon, the first response: "Thanks, fixed". Come monday morning, one response: "we know, not a security issue, get lost.". And all others were "no response". A year later more than 50% of the computers where I reported the configuration error were still vulnerable.
With laws being written in such a way that the "white hats" (*) can be thrown in jail, we create an environment where the white hats are either ignored or thrown in jail. Before you know it, the "white hats" are too afraid to report anything and stop reporting real problems. In that situation, you only find out the problems when a bad guy ends up crashing a plane.
Boeing: invite the guy over to show you the problem. Once that hole has been closed, invite him over, pay his hotel an meals for a week while he hacks at a "fixed" plane on the ground at your facilities. Credit him for making aviation safer.
(Do this, before someone makes it stick that: "Boeing created this system with such bad security that it put passengers at risk.").
(*) the researchers that report the problems they find without causing real harm,