The possibility that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was destroyed because of a botched hack attack on its computers and electrical systems will force itself back into the spotlight this week at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas.
As this Reuters report says, cyber security researcher Ruben Santamarta’s claims that he has demonstrated such hacks on aircraft systems and one of the satellite constellations that they use via their inflight wi-fi and entertainment systems will be hot in the spotlight when he presents his claims Thursday US time.
There are some contrary indications of course. Santamarta isn’t quoted in relating his claimed success in hacking aircraft systems as even mentioning MH370, he would hardly need to do so, and the Iridium satellite constellation he targeted and the aircraft systems he attacked under highly controlled lab conditions, weren’t those on or used by the MH370 Boeing 777-200ER anyhow, even though they may have critical elements in common.
But it may be more than time to start connecting some of the dots.
It’s less than a month since the technical media broke its generally self imposed silence over the vulnerability of an electronic and electrical bay that is below and behind the cockpits of 777s that can be readily accessed through an insecure hatch in the cabin floor of those jets.
The vulnerability had been drawn to the attention of Boeing and safety authorities in recent years, but nothing, at least officially, has ever been done to remedy the security flaw.
A summary of the situation, and a YouTube video narrated by a 777 pilot, in uniform, standing in an EE bay and giving a guided tour of its vulnerabilities, can be found here.
This smorgasbord of vulnerabilities in terms of access to the hardware of a 777, and perhaps through it, to the firmware and software in its systems may, stress may, be the key to overcoming the usual industry objection that hacking a jet is impossible because there is no physical entry point to such systems available to a hacker.
This large but ignored hole in the security defences of a 777 provides opportunities for devices to be clipped onto or into the jet’s control, communications and navigational equipment.
This is not to say that this is unquestionably relevant to the disappearance of MH370, which suddenly diverted from its intended flight path between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on 8 March, and is now the subject of a renewed Indian Ocean sea floor search some 1800 kms west of Perth. But at the very least, the possibilities need to be thoroughly investigated–with such investigations quite possibility having been underway without any official commentary–and for some time.
Very early in the disappearance of MH370, Plane Talking was told by several insiders in different and non-Australian carriers of the suspicion that something went wrong in an original plan to seize control of the 777, which resulted in its eventually flying south over the Indian Ocean from a point west of Thailand and north of Sumatra until its fuel ran out.
MH370 has already been officially stated to have been intentionally diverted from its planned flight when it was seen on military radar to have abruptly turned west while over the Gulf of Thailand heading into Vietnamese controlled airspace, and then being tracked heading NW into the Andaman Sea.
But according to those scenarios, something prevented it continuing to wherever in Asia it was intended to fly, and the rest, as of this moment, is the most mysterious disappearance of a scheduled airliner flight in history.