A GOOGLE Maps sighting that sparked a search for missing flight MH370 may have been down to a hack, a software expert claims.
Video producer Ian Wilson last month trawled through the Cambodian jungle after claiming to have spotted the Boeing 777-200 on the app.
But the British truth-seeker, along with his brother Jack, dramatically abandoned the search after describing the trek as so dangerous they were “lucky not to kill ourselves”.
Open University academic Dr Yijun Yu has now theorised the Google Maps sighting of the claimed MH370 jet may have been down to a hack.
Dr Yu, an aviation software researcher, told Daily Star Online: “When searching Google Maps you get the image from the server, and if the data from the server is coming from the physical, real evidence then there’s no question.
“But otherwise, all the way from the original data to the server, there may be some tampering happening.
“I know some data signals for an aircraft to network, you might have hackers insert some false flight.
“So even though in open sky you see nothing, someone can insert a digital record into the network and when people search, they will see an airplane passing by, even though it wasn’t there.
“Hacking for any data search happens a lot, so Google Maps users often people see there are some ghosts on the street view, because it can’t have such a ghosts”
“So the challenge is whether Google’s satellite data was distorted at all.
“Google Maps is used for civilians to carry out status of location, but you might have data coming from military groups, for example, and they want to hide a certain base or location, that’s very possible.
“But in this particular case it’s unlikely. In this area there is nothing happening.
“It is hard to tell what’s really happened. But that’s one possible explanation, if it’s real then all the other explanations were wrong.
“Hacking for any data search happens a lot, so Google Maps users often people see there are some ghosts on the street view, because it can’t have such a ghosts.”
Daily Star Online understands Wilson’s sighting is a plane snapped in flight.
Dr Yu believes this is the most likely explanation, but he has called for a drone to be sent to the spot after claiming Wilson’s theory could not yet be ruled out.
He told us: “My suggestion is sending drones to save the costs. Drones are getting mature these days as we research the operating software, we know their capability.
“It’s definitely worth trying. You don’t exclude one theory until you have sound forensic evidence.”
The plane in Google Maps measures around 70metres in length, a little larger than MH370’s 63.7m but with a mysterious gap between the tail and body.
Malaysian Transport Ministry records show air traffic controllers had enquired if the plane was in Phnom Penh, 60 miles east of Wilson’s sighting.
And at one point they were even told the Malaysia Airlines plane was in Cambodian airspace, before this was later ruled incorrect.
The official investigation said the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean west of Australia after running out of fuel.
Investigators came to this conclusion using Inmarsat data, following a series of “pings” between the jet and a satellite.
However a four-year search of this area found nothing, with only pieces of debris washing up in the Indian Ocean since.
Daily Star Online has approached Google for comment.