United Airlines stopped a prominent security researcher from boarding a flight late Saturday, following a social media post by the researcher days earlier suggesting the airline's onboard systems could be hacked. The researcher, Chris Roberts, tried to board a flight from Colorado to San Francisco to speak at a major security conference, but was stopped by the airline's corporate security at the gate. Roberts founded One World Labs, which tries to discover security risks before they are exploited. He was removed from a United flight on Wednesday by the FBI after landing in Syracuse and was questioned for four hours after jokingly suggesting on Twitter he could get the oxygen masks on the plane to deploy
An airline spokesman says that while they have "decided it's in the best interest of our customers and crew members that he not be allowed to fly United," they "are confident our flight control systems could not be accessed through techniques he described." When asked what threat Roberts posed if United's systems couldn't be compromised, the spokesman said: "We made this decision because Mr. Roberts has made comments about having tampered with aircraft equipment, which is a violation of United policy." A staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents Roberts, says they hope United "learns that computer security researchers are a vital ally, not a threat." Roberts took an alternate flight on Southwest Airlines.