Security researcher tells FBI he took control of a commercial airliner

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.

  • just a thought

    Wait. It can’t be true that “in-flight entertainment systems… are run by the same computer that controls flight systems, …can it?

    “Aw, Mom, why did you book us with this dumb airline again? Their game system ALWAYS lags!”

    • Xavier

      It wouldn’t surprise me. Engineers seem to love making computers do things that are unnecessary and foolish.

      Technology isn’t the problem; the implementation of technology is the problem.

      • FactsWillOut

        This is a management failure, if it’s even true.

        • I suspect it is true.

          • Ken

            I have a lot of trouble believing this. The FMS and the inflight entertainment system may share the same source of electrical power, but that’s it. It’s like saying your son’s Playstation can hack into your digital alarm clock, just because they’re both plugged into the house 115 VAC.

          • just a thought

            I’m hoping you’re right, if for no other reason than it makes sense, but then, common sense doesn’t count for much these days.
            Also, consider the importance of minimizing the weight of a plane, and how much extra weight could be eliminated by having one computer for all functions.

  • mauser 98

    high end cars MB, BMW Audi ,Lexus etc are now “fly by wire”. no direct mechanical connection to steering, brakes,gas. remote control possible

    • FactsWillOut

      Have been for some time now.
      Old Saabs were fly by wire as well, and they’re not even really high end.

      • mauser 98

        old Saabs had electric servo brakes?

  • ntt1

    I f they are smart they will engage this hacker, even if he is a loon, and ensure he is out to lunch or more importantly, correct a major design flaw.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Not believing this. All of these claims are based on THAT guy’s claims to bolster tweets he made about security. And yet no one has ever come forth to lend credence to anything he’s claimed. Sure computers can do bad things and there really is evidence that a programming error in the Toyota throttle computer can in lead to unintended acceleration but this guy’s claims are just that, claims.