So this was in the headlines a few days ago: Feds Say That Banned Researcher Commandeered a Plane. Let me just say right up front; I’m calling BS on this one. Go ahead, read through the Wired article. Nowhere in there is there any evidence that this guy, Chris Roberts actually messed with a plane’s engine in flight. He himself says he did not, but claims he simulated it on the ground. Which in itself is suspect, because you can make up anything you want in in a simulation. The only evidence that this happened is that the Feds say he did it, and of course, we all know the government never accuses anyone of a crime, unless they have solid evidence to back it up, right?
Let’s pretend just for grins, you actually had the power to vary the thrust of the one or more jet engines on a flight you were on. Just think about that for a second. Would you do it? Let’s get real. NO, YOU MOST EMPHATICALLY WOULD NOT mess with the engines, because you might end up killing yourself, and a lot of other people. I suppose, if you were a terrorist or wanted to commit suicide and take a lot of people with you, you might use that power. As far as I can tell, which admittedly is not much, Chris is not a terrorist and he doesn’t have a death wish. It does sound like he has been trying to drum up fears about airplane network security, for years, possibly for economic gain, though. As we sadly already know, there are much easier and more reliable ways to bring down an airplane, than possibly, maybe, hacking a plane’s network.
I don’t know exactly when the plane or planes, in question were developed, but as long as we are pretending, let’s pretend we are in the design offices of Airbus or Boeing, a few years ago, listening in on the conversation of a couple of their engineers:
Larry (Engine Controls Engineer): “Hey Sally, it’s a long way from the cockpit to the engines, mind if I just tap into your in-flight entertainment system network, and send the engine control commands over it? Think of all the wire we’ll save.”
Sally (In-Flight Entertainment System Engineer): Sure Larry, no problem, go right ahead. Say, did you see the series finale of Lost. What a disappointment. I can’t believe all the time I wasted, watching that show.”
No, I don’t think there is any connection between the engine controls and the in-flight entertainment system. In fact I would be willing to bet that the entertainment system was contracted to an outside vendor, that possessed no knowledge, concern, or awareness of the controls systems on the the plane. Of course, if I’m wrong, then I’m smarter than a bunch of aerospace and avionics engineers, that work for the largest and most successful airplane manufacturers in the world. Now that’s a scary thought.
I don’t mean to minimize what this guy has done, though. I think it’s clear he did tap into the in-flight entertainment system. When you think about all of the warnings we get as air travelers: “It is a federal crime to tamper with the smoke detector in a rest room.” “Turn off your cell phones and other electronic devices.” If Chris Roberts hasn’t been already, he needs to be added to the No-Fly List like yesterday. In fact, why didn’t the Feds ground him sooner? It appears they were aware of what he was up to for some time, and what were the other passengers and crew doing when he was opening up under-seat electronic boxes and plugging in wires? What are the authorities always telling us? “If you see something, say something.”, and when I see BS, I say “BS!”.