- Posted May 5, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
What Really Happened to Malaysian Airlines MH370
By Robin Rowe
If you ask a pilot what happened to MH370, he will tell you hijacking is the only realistic explanation. The weather was good and the MH370 sent no distress signals despite flying on for five hours after last contact.
What hijacking scenario fits with what facts we have?
12:41am, MH370 departs Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, bound for Beijing
1:07 am, aircraft data reporting system shut down
1:21 am, aircraf0t transponder shut down
1:22 am, last radio and radar contact made with MH370, aircraft at IDARI waypoint
Sometime later, military radar detects an unidentified jet flying over Phuket, due west from IGARI waypoint
For five hours after last contact MH370 continues to send engine data to an Inmarsat satellite, later analysis of that data indicates the plane was flying faster than normal
Authorities have dismissed the only terrorist claim of responsibility, an encrypted email from a previously unknown group called the Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade. If the Chinese Martyrs or another terrorist group took over MH370, it wasn’t done with box cutters. How could it have been done?
In April 2013, security analyst Hugo Teso gave a conference presentation on how to take over a civilian airliner remotely. For the technically minded, the slides on Aircraft Hacking, the Practical Aero Series are still online and quite illuminating.
To sum up a long technical discussion, the flight systems are not encrypted, can be taken over by any determined hacker who understands the comms protocols. Any hacker who wants to learn the comms protocol and practice breaking into aircraft control systems can do so at home by buying surplus aircraft components available on Ebay for a few hundred dollars. It may be harder to break into Paris Hilton’s mobile phone than to take control remotely of a jetliner.
Once in control of flight systems, what would a terrorist want to do? First, reprogram the aircraft’s “soft radio” so that the pilots can only speak to you. Disable the transponder. Reprogram the guidance systems to fool the pilots into flying the wrong way even if they take manual control. Whether the pilots want to cooperate or not, they’ll have little choice but to land wherever they have been led by the guidance system or to crash into the ocean if the terrorist prefers.
What if MH370 continued due west on the course that it was last spotted by military radar. Straight west is Sri Lanka. Beijing is farther than Sri Lanka. MH370 had the range to land in Sri Lanka, even if it was burning more fuel by going faster. So why hijack a Malaysian airliner to Sri Lanka?
Based in northern Sri Lanka, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was one of the most feared terrorist organizations in the world. They assassinated two world leaders (Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991). LTTE was innovative. They invented suicide belts, first to use women in suicide attacks, first to use the Internet for cyber-attacks, and the first terrorist group to acquire air power.
The LTTE was defeated by the Sri Lanken military in 2009. Almost 12,000 LTTE cadres were captured, but 150 hardcore LTTE cadres and 1,000 mid-level cadres escaped. The LTTE ceased to operate after their leader Selvarasa Pathmanathan was arrested in Malaysia in August 2009.
Is the LTTE back? Do they now have a Boeing 777 they can load with bombs or drugs (for money to buy bombs), then slip into civilian air traffic? Are the passengers still alive, to be ransomed later? Is the name Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade a cruel taunt, that the Chinese have been made unwitting martyrs through cyber-hijacking?