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Flight MH370 Could be World’s First Cyber Hijacking Case

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By Athena Yenko | March 17, 2014 6:10 PM EST

Speaking with Sunday Express, British anti-terror expert, Dr Sally Leivesley, said that the case of the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 could be a case of first ever cyber hijacking.

"It might well be the world's  first cyber hijack."

She explained that cyber hijacking involves changing the plane's velocity, altitude and direction by transmitting radio signals to its flight management system. From there, it will be possible for someone to land the plane or to crash it by remote control.

Ms Leivesley said that a framework of malicious code, triggered by a mobile phone, would be powerful enough to pass the aircraft's security software.

 "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," Ms Leivesley said.

She said a mobile phone or even a USB stick could trigger cyber hijacking by encoding set of commands and codes that can be initiated when the plane is air-side.

She said that cyber hijacking was revealed in 2013 during a science conference in China.

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

However, RMIT Associate Professor Cees Bil, an expert in aircraft design, begs to disagree.

"I believe this is very far-fetched and with all the regulations, checks and safety systems in place, I don't believe something as simple as a phone can interfere with the security system," Mr Bill told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Bill explained that it is impossible for an in-flight entertainment system be connected with a software controlling the plane.  

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