Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the movements of a missing plane were consistent with a deliberate act by someone who turned the jet back across Malaysia and onwards to the west. Sarah Toms reports.
AN ANTI-TERROR expert says flight MH370 could have been hijacked using a mobile phone or USB stick.
Dr Sally Leivesley, a former scientific adviser in Britain’s Home Office, floated the extraordinary theory in an interview with the Sunday Express. Dr Leivesley now runs a company which trains businesses and governments to counter terrorist attacks.
“It might well be the world’s first cyber hijack,” Dr Leivesley said.
“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.”
Dr Leivesley said a hacker could potentially change the plane’s altitude, speed and direction by sending radio signals to its flight management system. She claimed the threat was exposed at a science conference in China last year.
“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,” Dr Leivesley told the Express.
“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 in-flight, on-board entertainment system.”
Last April, security expert and former pilot Hugo Teso claimed a plane could be hijacked using an Android smartphone. He created an app called PlaneSpoilt to demonstrate the theory.
“You can use this system to modify approximately everything related to the navigation of the plane,” Mr Teso said at a security conference in Amsterdam.
On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed flight MH370’s disappearance was “consistent with deliberate action” and said authorities were refocusing their investigation into the crew and passengers on board.
Police visited the homes of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the nation’s defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said foreign intelligence agencies had been asked to help by doing background checks on the flight’s passengers.
Dr Leivesley said whoever is responsible for flight MH370’s disappearance likely has “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.” Dr Leivesley said.