A newly-published search warrant application shows that an aviation computer security researcher told the FBI that he briefly took control of at least one commercial airliner. The warrant, which was filed in a federal court in New York state, was first published Friday by APTN, a Canadian news site.
According to the affidavit for the warrant application, the researcher, Chris Roberts, told the FBI that he:
connected to other systems on the airplane network after he exploited/gained access to, or “hacked” the [in-flight entertainment] system. He stated that he then overwrote code on the airplane’s Thrust Management Computer while aboard a flight. He stated that he successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the climb command. 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. He also stated that he used Vortex software after compromising/exploiting or “hacking” the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.
Roberts did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, but he told Wired on Friday that this paragraph was taken out of context.
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