To keep the security of the flight intact, United Airlines recently blocked the founder of security intelligence firm One World Labs – Chris Robert – from boarding a California-bound flight. The decision by the airlines followed a social media post by the security researcher. In the post Robert tweeted about his ability to hack the airplane’s network to deploy the emergency oxygen mask.
Chris Robert was going to board the United Airlines flight from Colorado to San Francisco to speak at a major security conference; but he wasn’t allowed to carry on with his schedule as he was stopped by the airline’s corporate security at the gate. It is interesting to note that the company that he founded, One World Labs, works on discovering security risks in technologies and companies before they are exploited. Here’s the tweet by Robert that actually resulted in his flight ban and FBI detainment – “Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM,? Shall we start playing with EICAS messages? ‘PASS OXYGEN ON’ Anyone?:)”. Taking this short and joking statement by the researcher seriously, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) immediately detained Chris Robert and confiscated all his electronic devices that he was carrying along.
Talking on the step taken by the United Airlines, the spokesman of the airline, Rahsaan Johnson said, “Given Mr. Roberts’ claims regarding manipulating aircraft systems, we’ve decided it’s in the best interest of our customers and crew members that he not be allowed to fly United.” Talking further in related to the flight’s security, Rahsaan said, “However, we are confident our flight control systems could not be accessed through techniques he described.”
On the other side, keeping his side in front of the media about the airline system vulnerabilities, Chris Robert said, “Quite simply put, we can theorize on how to turn the engines off at 35,000 feet and not have any of those damn flashing lights go off in the cockpit.”
FBI is yet to comment on the incident, including the detainment of security researcher Chris Robert. Robert has however till now made numerous tweets in reply to the incident and mentions that he still has not received his electronic device back from the FBI and has no idea as by when he would be to fly with United Airlines again.