Dr Sally Leivesley, a British anti-terror expert has said that the disappearance of flight MH370 might be the world’s first cyber hijack. The former Home Office scientific adviser said that hijackers could send radio signals to the plane’s flight control system and change flight, altitude and direction of the aircraft.
This sort of control could be used to make the plane land at an unknown location or to force it to crash. Criminal gangs, terrorists or foreign powers are all possible culprits in this theory. With over a week having passed since the silent disappearance of the plane along with 239 people on board, theories are starting to point more towards criminal intent than an unforeseen mishap.
A search of the pilot’s home and previous records shows that the disappearance was a “deliberate act”. Dr Leivesley has said, “There appears to be an element of planning from someone with a very sophisticated systems engineering understanding.”
“This is a very early version of what I would call 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. When the plane is air-side, you can insert a set of commands and codes that may initiate, on signal, a set of processes.”
Dr Leivesley said that this possibility was revealed at last year’s science conference in China. She explained it in the following words, “What we are finding now is that it is possible with a mobile phone to initiate a signal to a preset piece of malicious software, or malware, in the computer that initiates a whole set of instructions.”
This theory is backed up by German security consultant Hugo Teso, who demonstrated last April, a way to remotely hijack a plane using a mobile phone. He said that he spent three years developing a mobile app by the name of PlaneSploit that is capable of hacking into a plane’s security system.
The search for MH370 now involves 14 countries, the global intelligence community and America’s arsenal of satellites. With the search grid expanding, suspicion is being raised about the 53-year old pilot of the flight, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Police have searched his house and found many documents and files as well as a flight simulator. Most of the findings have been handed over to forensics for further investigation. 27-year old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid’s home is also being searched by police and although his family claim that he was a decent boy, a picture was released that showed him with two women in the cockpit three years ago.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has said, “These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.”
“Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase.In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board.”
With the search for flight MH370 slowly transforming into an investigation, people hope that the cause of the plane’s disappearance becomes clear soon. Whether it was someone on the plane or a party in a remote location, it now seems that the flight did not vanish by accident.