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Man Booted From Flight Over Tweet
By: Jessica Cherok
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Want to be banned from an airline? Try tweeting about hacking into the plane’s onboard computer system.

As if most of us didn’t already know this — it’s not the best idea to go on social media and joke about hacking into the flight's operating system and deploying the oxygen masks. For one passenger, Chris Roberts, the lesson was learned the hard way.

Roberts, the founder of One World Labs, a cybersecurity firm that alerts companies to vulnerabilities by attempting to infiltrate their IT systems, was removed from a United Airlines flight after jokingly musing about his ability to gain access to the flight’s computers. After the tweet, Roberts was removed from a flight by the FBI, had his laptop confiscated, and was interrogated for several hours.

Roberts claims that he was merely trying to point out the presence of vulnerabilities in airline security. As a cybersecurity expert, he has given interviews pointing out airlines’ shortcomings.

In response to their decision to remove Roberts, United stated:
Given Mr Roberts's 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.

However, we are confident our flight control systems could not be accessed through techniques he described. 
Supporters of Roberts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have come out saying United Airlines should be looking at cybersecurity experts as “a vital ally, not a threat.”

   

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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