Cyber security experts criticize United Airlines hacker

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Cybersecurity Experts Criticize United Airlines Hacker

A cyber security researcher's claim that he managed to control a plane mid-flight through its in-flight entertainment system has drawn criticism from the cybersecurity community.

"We have primarily focused on being in the airplane and hooking up through the in-flight entertainment," said Chris Roberts on Fox News.

An FBI search warrant obtained by APTN says Chris Roberts took control of a flight briefly and caused it to fly sideways for a short time.

It's still unclear when this alleged hack occurred, but Roberts was detained by the FBI in April after he posted this tweet claiming he had hacked into a United Airlines flight he was on.

Roberts said his actions were to expose security vulnerabilities on planes, but some are saying that what he is accused of doing actually does more harm than good.

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Cyber security experts criticize United Airlines hacker
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: United Airlines jets sit at gates at O'Hare International Airport on September 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. In 2013, 67 million passengers passed through O'Hare, another 20 million passed through Chicago's Midway Airport, and the two airports combined moved more than 1.4 million tons of air cargo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
An air traffic control tower rises above a ramp serving LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A Virgin America plane lands above a United Airlines plane at San Francisco International Airport on February 18, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A United Airlines plane taxis on the runway at San Francisco International Airport on March 13, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
United Airlines flight #UA1600 from Newark, N.J., crosses the Waxing Gibbous moon as it approaches Los Angeles International Airport in Whittier, Monday, March 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
A United airlines plane lands in a snowfall at Newark Liberty International Airport Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A United Airlines jet taxis at O'Hare International Airport on September 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Yahoo's chief security officer tweeted, "You cannot promote the (true) idea that security research benefits humanity while defending research that endangered hundreds of innocents."

There have also been accusations that it makes the cybersecurity industry as a whole look irresponsible --and others have even called it a marketing ploy to draw attention to Roberts' research.

There is also some skepticism that Roberts actually pulled this off.

Boeing, which is manufacturer of the United Airlines plane Roberts was on when he was arrested, said the hack wouldn't even be possible because its entertainment systems are "isolated from flight and navigation systems."

Roberts had previously told Wired that he had only manipulated a flight in a simulation of the hack. He also said the affidavit filed by the FBI took some of their discussion out of context.

Roberts isn't the only one under scrutiny after the incident. Herbert Dixon, a retired Washington D.C. judge also known as the "technology judge," asked if the airline should be investigated for the vulnerability.

United Airlines has begun offering a reward in airline miles for discovering bugs in their security system. The FBI has not said whether it plans to press charges against Roberts.

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