A British anti-terrorism expert claimed cyber terrorists could have used a series of "codes" to hack the in-flight entertainment system and infiltrate the security software of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH 370 flight, reported International Business Ti
Sally Leivesley, a former scientific adviser to the UK’s Home Office, said the Boeing 777’s speed, direction and altitude could have been changed using radio signals sent from a small device.
The theory comes after investigators determined that someone with knowledge of the plane’s system intentionally flew the jet off course.
She claimed the missing jetliner might well be the world’s first cyber hijack.” She told the UK’s Sunday Express, “This is a very early version of what I would call a smart plane, a fly-by-wire aircraft controlled by electronic signals.”
Leivesley said that the evidence increasingly indicates that someone took over the plane’s controls “in a deceptive manner” and overwhelmed the plane’s system either remotely or from a seat on the plane.
“There appears to be an element of planning from someone with a very sophisticated systems engineering understanding,” she said. “When the plane is air-side, you can insert a set of commands and codes that may initiate, on signal, a set of processes.”
Investigators have also proposed that the pilots themselves could have switched the plane’s communication equipment off and redirected the plane west, but officials say it would have been very difficult for them to make the plane disappear from radar. Commercial aviation pilots who spoke with NPR said shutting down the system, which is designed to automatically communicate with ground control stations, is far more complicated than throwing a single switch.
“They said you'd have to go through big checklists, you'd have to possibly pull circuit breakers if you wanted to deactivate [all the communications equipment],” NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel told “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel. “So, to do this, you'd have to have some degree of premeditation and a lot of knowledge of the aircraft.”
Further evidence supporting the cyber hijack theory comes from the fact that Boeing had previously expressed concern over the security of the plane’s systems, and had even contacted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for permission to change some of the onboard equipment. In August 2012, Boeing applied to have additional security installed aboard several of its 777 series aircraft.
Boeing was concerned that the aircrafts’ inflight entertainment system, which includes USB connections, could allow hackers to access a plane’s computer. The Federal Aviation Administration granted Boeing permission to change its inflight systems five months ago.