Seven highly vetted hackers, who were permitted access to the F-15 fighter jet’s flight system to search for weaknesses, were able to find serious vulnerabilities, The Washington Post is reporting.

If exploited in real life, the vulnerabilities could have shut down the Trusted Aircraft Information Download Station, which collects data from video cameras and sensors while the jet is flying, according to the newspaper.

The hackers were even able to discover bugs the Air Force already had tried to fix.

“They were able to get back in through the back doors they already knew were open,” said Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official.

He blamed the weaknesses on decades of neglect of cybersecurity.

“There are millions of lines of code that are in all of our aircraft and if there’s one of them that’s flawed, then a country that can’t build a fighter to shoot down that aircraft might take it out with just a few keystrokes,” he said.

The Post said Roper is trying to turn that round. It said the Air Force is convinced that unless it permits ethical hackers to search for vulnerabilities in its plane and weapons systems the best hackers outside the U.S. will find and these weaknesses first.

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