(CBS) — A computer hacker told the FBI he took control of a jetliner’s engines not long after he departed a flight that passed through Chicago.
Is he just bragging? Or has he exposed a weak link security?READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Wind Chill Advisory In Effect, Wind Chills Dropping Well Below Zero
That’s what the feds want to know, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports.
Computer expert Chris Roberts sees himself as a whistle-blower, one who has now drawn the full attention of the FBI.
“We rely on people like him to let us know what’s wrong so that we can fix it before the bad guys do it,” says DePaul University Prof. Jacob Furst.
According to a search warrant, Roberts told the FBI that from 2011 to 2014, he compromised inflight entertainment systems approximately 15 to 20 times by hacking into a control box under passengers seats.
That provided a gateway to control systems. On one flight, he said, he “successfully commanded the system” to cause “one of the airplane engines to climb, resulting in lateral or sideways movement of the plane.”
Furst, an expert in computers, says Roberts has opened up a window to vulnerability on aircraft.READ MORE: View Live Radar
The new generation of wireless connectivity aboard jetliners makes it difficult to totally separate electronic systems, he says.
“It should come as no surprise that the movies in the airplane are somehow connected to the software that controls the flight,” Furst says.
The ultimate solution could mean elimination of some popular passenger perks.
“It’s not going to be very long now before the TSA institutes new rules about what kind of electronics you can take or airlines just stop offering wireless connectivity,” Furst says.
The FBI hasn’t confirmed that Roberts interfered with flight controls, but they’re looking for evidence. On April 15, he flew United, Denver to Chicago, and then onto Syracuse.
Authorities confiscated his gear, including two laptops, three hard drives, seven thumb drives and a flash drive.MORE NEWS: Many Chicago Area Schools To Close Or Go Remote Wednesday Due To Extreme Cold