Defense

Boeing Jets Could Come To Screeching Halt After Virus Attack Hits Company

REUTERS/Jason Redmond

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Massive computer virus WannaCry hit Boeing Wednesday and raised concerns among some in the company the virus could destroy some important airplane equipment.

Boeing officials eventually played down the cyber-attack but not before Boeing Commercial Airplane production Chief Engineer Mike VanderWel sent a memo to the company, calling for “All hands-on deck.”

“It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston, and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” he wrote, adding the virus could “spread to airplane software.” Boeing issued a press statement Wednesday afternoon, stamping down VanderWel’s concerns shortly after the issue was addressed.

Cyber attacks have been on the rise recently. A massive attack hit several countries around the world in June 2017.

The hacking crippled critical infrastructure like airports and government departments in Ukraine. The country’s metro system, as well as a state-sponsored aircraft manufacturer and an airport in the city of Kiev, all reported operation difficulties, according to a June 27 report from The Telegraph.

The WannaCry virus exploits a flaw in Windows’ operating system to gain access to a network and attacks computers’ software, using “ransomware.” The virus, which first surfaced in a May 2017 cyber attack, was designed to lock users out of their data until they paid a fee or other type of ransom.

A so-called “kill switch” fix for WannaCry was developed after the 2017 attack, but other hackers produced WannaCry variants that could defeat the fix, Texas-based cyberthreat intelligence analyst Mitchell Edwards told The Seattle Times reporters Wednesday.

The virus designed to attack Boeing was unlikely the original WannaCry virus, he said. The virus could have spread to other Windows workstations engineers use to monitor airplane equipment, he added. It’s improbably to have had a big impact on production, according to Edwards.

“Obviously, Boeing isn’t going to be running its entire production network on Windows,” Edwards said. “I hope not. So, it’s likely a limited infection.”

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