More than two years before before coming under FBI questioning about possibly hacking into the in-flight entertainment system of a commercial plane while it was in mid air, a security researcher told peers he accessed the computer controls of other highly sensitive aviation and aeronautics systems, including the International Space Station.
Chris Roberts of One World Labs told an audience in 2012 he bypassed the on-board firewall of a Boeing 737 plane he was traveling on and made contact with the Apache Tomcat webserver the firewall was protecting. He told the same audience he accessed communications systems NASA uses to control the International Space Station and changed the temperature. It was impossible to confirm the veracity of those claims, which went largely unnoticed until Friday, when an FBI search warrant application came to light alleging Roberts told agents he took control of a jet plane and briefly caused it to climb and fly sideways.
The 2012 talk, titled By Land, By Sea, By Air has already touched off howls of protest from some researchers who say even the passive accessing of restricted parts of a plane while it's in flight is grossly reckless. Critics also argue the behavior would likely be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a felony to gain unauthorized access to protected computer systems.