June 23, 2024

Denver Computer Security Expert Pulled From Flight After Tweeted Joke Fails to Land

2 min read


The web is undoubtedly clogged with useless data. However, while 97% of the 60 billion emails — and a significant portion of the 500 million tweets — sent each day are simply spam messages, that doesn’t mean no one is reading what you post on the web.

On Saturday, April 18, a Denver-based computer security researcher was told he wasn’t allowed to fly on United Airlines after jokingly tweeting about hacking into his flight’s onboard systems earlier in the week.

Chris Roberts, of One World Labs, had ironically been on his way to give a talk on transportation systems’ computer security vulnerabilities the RSA Conference 2015 cyber security summit in San Francisco, USA Today reported.

“Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM, ? Shall we start playing with EICAS messages? “PASS OXYGEN ON” Anyone ? :)” Roberts tweeted onboard his flight from Denver to Syracuse, NY that Wednesday, contemplating whether or not he’d be able to hack into the plane’s onboard computer settings.

EICAS stands for “engine-indicating and crew-alerting system,” meaning Roberts had been considering — however jokingly — tampering with the airplane’s onboard communication system.

When Roberts’ flight arrived in Syracuse, FBI agents were there waiting for him. They questioned him for four hours and confiscated all his electronics and computer equipment except for his iPhone, RT.com reported.

“Lesson from this evening, don’t mention planes…the Feds ARE listening, nice crew in Syracuse, left there naked of electronics,” his next tweet read.

Roberts returned to Denver later that week. On Saturday,he received notice that he wouldn’t be allowed onboard his flight to San Francisco.

United Airlines made the choice to block him from their flights “because he had made public statements about having manipulated airfare equipment and aircraft systems,” Rahsaan Johnson, United Airlines spokesman, said. “That’s something we just can’t have.”

Luckily, Roberts was able to get to San Francisco on time, albeit via another airline’s flight. It’s just another lesson that you should always watch what you tweet — you never know who may be reading.

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