Yemen's Houthis blamed for Israeli El Al 'cyberhijack'

Yemen's Houthis blamed for Israeli El Al 'cyberhijack'
There is still no confirmation who was responsible for the alleged Israeli plane hacking, but it follows attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
2 min read
19 February, 2024
El Al has some of the tightest security of any airline [Getty]

The attempted 'cyberjacking' of an Israeli airline was possibly aimed at kidnapping passengers, according to reports.

An El Al flight from Phuket to Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport was flying over an area where the "Houthis are active", according to The Jerusalem Post, when there was an attempted takeover of the airline's onboard communications took place.

The hackers attempted to pass on information that would divert the flight off course to an unknown destination.

While the Houthis were initial suspects, a group operating in the breakaway Somaliland region in Somalia could also be responsible, KAN reported.

"In Somalia, there have been communication interruptions all week, not only for El Al planes, and the official authorities have issued instructions to all pilots that as soon as this happens with a certain frequency, not to listen to the instructions and to switch to another communication method," an El Al source told Walla.

The crew were reportedly given directions that would have seen them divert from their planned route, leading to suspicions the 'cyberjackers' wanted to bring harm to the plane and passengers.

Pilots cross checked the flight data and ignored the instructions, fearing they were being misled.

A 'cyberjacking' of another El Al flight reportedly took place last week, Israeli media reported, although the airline insists their planes are not being directly targeted and Saturday's events should not be classed as a security incident.

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While it is not clear if the Houthis were responsible, the Yemeni rebel group has targeted shipping allegedly linked to Israel in what is says is a response to the war on Gaza.

El Al has been targeted in attempted hijacking and attacks in the past, but has some of the tightest security of any airline in the world including missile defence systems and armed 'sky marshals', according to reports.

Israel has been on high alert since the 7 October attacks and subsequent war on Gaza, which has seen over 29,000 Palestinians killed, the vast majority civilians.