The FBI is investigating whether a purported hacker was able to control a plane mid-flight, The Washington Post reports.
Chris Roberts, who’s with a security intelligence firm called One World Labs, tweeted on April 15 that he was able to manipulate the in-flight and crew-alerting system of a United Airlines plane. The FBI detained Roberts for several hours after the flight, seizing his equipment and barring him from taking another United flight.
“Lesson from this evening, don’t mention planes,” he later tweeted. “The Feds ARE listening, nice crew in Syracuse, left there naked of electronics.”
Roberts told Wired in an interview that he was only kidding and did not actually take control of the flight. But the point, he said, was to show that it can be done and to alert U.S. officials to the problem.
The FBI said Roberts claimed he was able to take control of the flight.
“He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights,” FBI Special Agent Mark Hurley wrote in his warrant application, as Wired reported. “He also stated that he used Vortex software after comprising/exploiting or ‘hacking’ the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.”