Malaysia Airlines MH370
A model during an art performance in support of the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International AirportReuters

A chilling new theory has now emerged suggesting that the missing Malaysian flight MH370 could have been hijacked, by using a mobile phone, in what could be the world's first cyber hijack.  

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had earlier given a strong hint that the missing flight could have been hijacked, by telling reporters that the investigation has diverted its focus to the safety of the 239 people onboard.

British anti-terror expert and former Home Office scientific adviser Dr Sally Leivesley said it might be the world's first cyber attack as hackers could change the speed, altitude and direction of a plane, by sending radio signals to its flight management system, according to a report by the Express. 

"There appears to be an element of planning from someone with a very sophisticated systems engineering understanding," Leivesley was quoted as saying by the Express.

"This is a very early version of what I would call a smart plane, a fly-by-wire aircraft controlled by electronic signals. It is looking more and more likely that the control of some systems was taken over in a deceptive manner, either manually, so someone sitting in a seat overriding the autopilot, or via a remote device turning off or overwhelming the systems.

"A mobile phone could have been used to do so or a USB stick. When the plane is air-side, you can insert a set of commands and codes that may initiate, on signal, a set of processes," she added.

Leivesley went on to say that hackers can get into a plane's main computer network with the help of a mobile phone.

It may be recalled that Hugo Teso, a German security consultant and a commercial pilot, had said at a security summit in Amsterdam last year that one could hack into a plane's security system by using a mobile phone.

As 14 countries pressed on with the extensive search for the missing plane, the police searched the homes of 53-year-old pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah and 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid on Saturday.

Prime Minister Razak told reporters on Saturday that search operations would focus on two possible corridors - northern and southern corridors - and that search in the South China Sea would end. The northern corridor covers areas from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and the southern corridor extends from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

The plane carrying 239 people onboard went missing on 8 March, just an hour into its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Several theories, including those of crash and hijacking, did the rounds even as international communities extended their help in the search operations.