- Speed and altitude could also be changed from device using ‘codes’
- Possibility that it could be made to land using remote control
- Pilot’s friends said he had always been a ‘gadget geek’ at school
A chilling theory suggests the missing Malaysian Airlines plane could have been hijacked using a mobile phone or USB stick.
An anti-terror expert believes the speed, altitude and direction of the aircraft could have been changed, simply by sending radio signals from a small remote device.
A framework of ‘codes’ created by cyber terrorists would also be able to get into the plane’s in-flight entertainment system and override the security software.
It is also believed, once the systems have been successfully hacked, the plane could be landed by remote control.
The theory has emerged as the search for flight MH370 continues to grow, with 25 countries now involved in the rescue effort.
Yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed the plane’s disappearance was the result of a ‘deliberate act’ and could have flown as far as Kazakstan.
Dr Sally Leivesley, a former Home Office official, said: ‘It might well be the world’s first cyber hijack.’
Dr Leivesley, who now prepares businesses and governments for potential terrorist attacks, told the Sunday Express: ‘There appears to be an element of planning from someone with 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.
She added that once the plane is air-side, you can insert a set of commands and codes which can begin a new set of processes.
Friends of Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, whose home was searched by police yesterday, said he was a ‘gadget geek’ while at school.
They described the 53-year-old as someone who would ‘never compromise his passenger’s safety’, the Malaysian Star reported.
A flight simulator, which was taken from his luxury house in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur, has been dismantled and is being examined by investigators.
Police also searched the home of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, who lives in the same upmarket district
Police sources have confirmed that Shah was a vocal political activist – and fear that the court decision left him profoundly upset. It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew.
It is not yet clear where the plane was taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have been making for one of two possible flight corridors.
The search, involving 43 ships and 58 aircraft from 15 countries, switched from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean.
Satellite data has shown that after losing contact with air traffic controllers, the plane could have kept flying as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or deep into the southern Indian Ocean.
It has left authorities desperate to narrow down a search area now stretching across 11 nations and one of the most remote oceans in the world.
‘The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult,’ Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference Sunday.
‘It is our hope with the new information, parties that can come forward and narrow the search to an area that is more feasible,’ he said, adding that the search effort now includes 25 countries.
‘The search area has been significantly expanded.
And the nature of the search has changed. From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans,’ Hishammuddin said.