WORLD NEWS :  The chance of dying in a plane crash may been cut by advances in aircraft design, but a plane’s growing reliance on technology is posing a new type of risk. Now, a group of industry heavyweights has warned that cyber-crime is a serious threat to safety in the skies, and have vowed to fight the growing scourge before it causes a catastrophic incident.

The warning follows a series of suspected attacks, including theories that the missing Malaysian Airline planes may have been hijacked by cyber criminals. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recently signed a new cyber security agreement, formalising their front against cybercrime.

‘Our common goal in developing this agreement is to work more effectively together to establish and promote a robust cyber security culture and strategy for the benefit of all actors in our industry,’ said Raymond Benjamin, secretary general of the ICAO.

He added: ‘As technologies rapidly evolve and become more readily accessible to all, cyber threats cannot be ignored. ‘This is an important new area of aviation security concern and our global community will ensure that it is met with a strong level of commitment and response.’

Earlier this year, a chilling theory was put forward that the missing Malaysian Airlines plane could have been hijacked using a mobile phone or USB stick. An anti-terror said he believes the speed, altitude and direction of the aircraft could have been changed, simply by sending radio signals from a small remote device.

A framework of ‘codes’ created by cyber terrorists would also be able to get into the plane’s in-flight entertainment system and override the security software. It is also believed, once the systems have been successfully hacked, the plane could be landed by remote control.