Everyone knows not to make joke about bombs, guns, terrorists or hijackers while on an airplane, in an airport or even online before flying. Now, you can add hacking to the list.
Security researcher Christ Roberts wasn't allowed to board a United Airlines flight after making a post on Twitter. Let's take a look at what it said and why airlines are worried.
Here's the original tweet:
Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM, ? Shall we start playing with EICAS messages? "PASS OXYGEN ON" Anyone ? :)
OK, that tweet just seems like a collection of acronyms and lousy grammar. If you know what the techno-speak means, however, Roberts is asking if he should hack the plane's systems and trigger the passenger oxygen masks. From the tweet, it sounds like he knows exactly how, but does he really?
This isn't the first time Roberts has brought up the problem of aircraft computers being vulnerable to hackers. In fact, he's been sounding the warning bell about it for four years, and even claims that he's viewed in-flight data from aircraft systems before.
This time, however, United Airlines decided to take his tweet seriously and canceled his flight hours in advance. There was a miscommunication about the cancellation, however, and Roberts showed up at the airport where he was then detained for several hours of questioning. His laptop and other gadgets were confiscated without a warrant.
United claims that barring Roberts from the plane and future United flights is based on principle and that its planes aren't actually vulnerable to hackers. However, this incident is getting a lot more attention thanks to a new report that was just released by the Government Accounting Office.
The report warns that hackers could take over an airplane using the on-board Wi-Fi. Click here for more details on that report and what it means for the future of air travel.
With Roberts continuing to sound the warning on vulnerable airplanes and the Electronic Frontier Foundation investigating United's treatment of Robert, this story is far from over. I'll keep you updated as new information becomes available.
Does United kicking Roberts off the plane make you feel safer? Let me know in the comments.