Was Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Hijacked by Hackers?

Some experts say it could have been, but many doubt it

By Eduard Kovacs on March 17th, 2014 15:09 GMT

The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has made a lot of headlines lately and because authorities are not able to find the airplane, all sorts of theories have surfaced. 

Someone on board could have hijacked the plane, but the latest theory suggests that the airplane could have been remotely hacked.

Dr. Sally Leivesley, a British anti-terror expert and a former Home Office scientific adviser, has told the Sunday Express that hackers could have hijacked the plane’s flight management systems and remotely program it to either land or crash.

“This is a very early version of what I would call a smart plane, a fly-by-wire aircraft controlled by electronic signals,” Leivesley explained.

“It is looking more and more likely that the control of some systems was taken over in a deceptive manner, either manually, so someone sitting in a seat overriding the autopilot, or via a remote device turning off or overwhelming the systems.”

She claims that such an attack can be carried out with a USB stick or a mobile phone.

“When the plane is air-side, you can insert a set of commands and codes that may initiate, on signal, a set of processes,” she explained.

Many experts doubt Dr. Leivesley’s theory. One of them is Hugo Teso, the researcher who became famous last year after demonstrating that airplanes could be remotely hijacked.

“I spent the last days talking with countless journalists, all of them interested on the possibility that the MH370 was victim of some kind of on board systems hack; my answer to all of them was the same:I don’t think the MH370 was hacked,” Teso said.

“Not going into detail about the reasons behind my opinion, being common sense one of them, I would like to make it clear here: I don’t think the MH370 was hacked,” he added. “There is very little and incomplete information about what happened to the MH370, so let’s wait for further developments and avoid speculating with highly unlikely theories.”

IT security expert Dave Whitelegg has a similar opinion.

“In my view based on the current evidence, I believe we are looking at a sophisticated plane hijack, by a person or persons who have a high degree of expertise in aviation, not cyber security,” he said.

“Although the investigation should not rule out a cyber attack element, I think it is far more plausible to switch off the aircraft tracking and to take control of the aircraft from sitting within the cockpit, than sitting in the cabin with a laptop or mobile phone.”

The MH370 flight disappeared over a week ago somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam. A total of 25 countries have become involved in the search for the missing aircraft, but so far without any luck. While some states are looking for it on land, others, such as Australia, are joining the search party in the Indian Ocean.

The latest reports suggest that the airplane descended to 1,500 m (5,000 ft) to avoid being detected by radar. Authorities are also looking into the possibility that someone on board, besides the pilots, someone with aviation experience, might have taken over controls of the aircraft.
Search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 continues
   Search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 continues
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