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Missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 could be the first 'cyber hijack'

A former member of the Home Office claims hackers could have used a mobile phone
Mon Mar 17 2014, 11:59
Aircraft wing

THE MISSING Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 could be a victim of the world's first cyber-hijacking, a former member of the Home Office has claimed.

Speaking to The Express, British anti-terrorist expert and former Home office scientific adviser Dr Sally Leivesley said hackers could have hijacked the plane to change the plane's speed, altitude and direction by sending radio signals to its flight management system from a mobile phone.

"It might well be the world's first cyber hijack," said Leivesley, who runs her own company training businesses to foil terrorist attacks. "There appears to be an element of planning from someone with a very sophisticated systems engineering understanding."

The anti-terror expert said that the missing flight could well be a very early version of what she called a "smart plane", a fly-by-wire aircraft controlled by electronic signals.

"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.

"A mobile phone could have been used to do so or a USB stick."

Leivesley explained that hackers could use a mobile phone to send a signal to a preset piece of malware in the computer that initiated a set of instructions.

"It is possible for hackers, be they part of organised crime or with government backgrounds, to get into the main computer network of the plane through the inflight, onboard entertainment system," she added. ""If you have got any connections whatsoever between the computing systems, you can jump across and you can get into the flight critical system."

Leivesley brought up her theory as the hunt expanded for the missing Malaysia Airways Boeing 777 flight MH370 that disappeared without a trace on 8 March with 239 people on board, making it the biggest air-sea search in history.

The disappearance of the flight MH370 baffled experts until a week after it vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, when it was finally announced last Thursday that the disappearance was a "deliberate act".

Malaysian police began searching the captain and co-pilot's homes after US investigators established that the aircraft's automated communications systems might have been switched off, and that radar data indicated that the aircraft's movements were consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane. However, investigators will never learn what happened in the cockpit unless the plane is found.

As of 16 March, there are 25 countries participating in the expanded search, which is focused on a northern corridor from the Kazakh-Turkmen border to northern Thailand, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

On 10 March, two million people joined an effort to search for signs of the missing Malaysian Air flight MH370 online.

People put their time and resources into the Digital Globe satellite scanning system and picked out 645,000 features within hours, flagging them as possible pieces of wreckage.

The firm behind the crowdsourcing project said that it was impressed by the response and glad to see that people have embraced its system. While the service initially struggled under heavy traffic, it has since gotten on top of it. µ


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