Security Expert Blacklisted By Airline For Tweet


SAN FRANCISCO—After Chris Roberts posted a tweet suggesting that the onboard computer systems of United Airlines were susceptible to hacking, the security researcher was denied access to his California-bound flight on April 18.

Roberts is a security expert that is very vocal and active on social media, a presence that may very well have led to his removal from a San Francisco-bound flight on Saturday night.

Roberts was scheduled to travel from Colorado to San Francisco to speak at a security conference. Saturday night’s social media tweet spurred rejection for the second time of the week  for Roberts, who, on Wednesday, was removed from a flight by FBI agents after joking on Twitter that he could make the plane’s emergency oxygen masks deploy.

Roberts was subsequently questioned for approximately four hours and had his laptop and other electronic equipment seized for inspection.

Saturday’s incident had Roberts staring corporate security officials of United Airlines directly in the face, as he was once again refused service due to a presumed security threat. Though at the time United Airlines did not provide Roberts a detailed explanation for his removal, the airline did tell his attorney that he would receive a letter within two weeks detailing the grounds of his rejection.

“Given Mr. Roberts’ claims regarding manipulating aircraft systems, we’ve decided it’s in the best interest of our customers and crew members that he not be allowed to fly United,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. “However, we are confident our flight control systems could not be accessed through techniques he described.”

Roberts is the founder of One World Labs, a company with the purpose of discovering holes in security procedures before they are criminally exploited. Prior to his removal from both flights, a public spotlight had already been placed on Roberts for comments he made in interviews with Fox News and CNN, interviews in which the security professional openly discussed the weak-points of airline security.

“Quite simply put, we can theorize on how to turn the engines off at 35,000 feet and not have any of those damn flashing lights go off in the cockpit,” said Roberts in an interview with Fox News.

Roberts eventually gained transport to San Francisco from Southwest Airlines. He remains scheduled to speak at this week’s RSA conference, where he will present his findings on potential breaches in aircraft computer security.