Security researcher tells FBI he took control of a commercial airliner – even making it fly sideways – by hacking into the entertainment system
A prominent hacker and security researcher who was kicked off a United Airlines flight last month had previously admitted to the FBI that he had taken control of a plane and made it fly sideways.
Chris Roberts told a special agent earlier this year that he had repeatedly hacked planes’ in-flight entertainment systems while aboard the aircraft, a search warrant application by the FBI states.
In one case, he also reportedly claimed to have overwritten the plane’s Thrust Management Computer code, allowing him to issue a climb command and make the plane serve sideways.
Following the interviews with the FBI agent on February 13 and 23 and March 5 – and another in April – Roberts had two of his laptops confiscated, along with several hard drives and USB sticks.
However, the founder of security firm One World Labs was never charged in relation to his claims.
After removing the cover to the SEB… he would use a Cat6 ethernet cable with a modified connector to connect his laptop computer to the IFE system while in flight,’ the affidavit states.
In one instance, after ‘hacking’ the IFE system and connecting to ‘other systems on the airplane network’, Roberts then apparently overwrote code on the plane’s Thrust Management Computer.
‘He stated that he successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the “CLB” or climb command,’ the affidavit says. ‘He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights.’
The document adds: ‘He also stated that he used Vortex software after compromising/exploiting or “hacking” the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.’
At least he’s telling us the exploits exist… that makes him the good guy as he’s acting for the greater good. The FBI won’t agree with that “greater good” defense though.