Sometime early Wednesday, computer systems at Boeing Co.’s (NYSE: BA) North Charleston, South Carolina, 777 assembly plant were subjected to an attack from the ransomware program known as WannaCry. By late in the afternoon the company said that its vulnerability was limited to “a few machines” and that the attack had had no impact on any of Boeing’s manufacturing programs.
At first, however, Boeing reacted as with force. The company’s chief production engineer for commercial jets, Mike VanderWel, sent out an alert calling for “All hands on deck,” according to Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times.
Gates cites a memo from VanderWel: “It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down.”
Some social media comments about the infection suggested that the virus could spread to an airplane’s control systems, leading to a ransomware demand while a plane is loaded with passengers and in flight. A cybersecurity expert rejected that idea as “hysteria.”
By late afternoon, Boeing’s IT had the situation under control according to Boeing spokeswoman Linda Mills:
Our cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems. Remediations were applied and this is not a production and delivery issue.
WannaCry and other ransomware viruses were a major concern last year, especially after a massive attack on shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk. Though less newsworthy now, the malware is still around, and WannaCry was used most recently to infect some of the city of Atlanta’s municipal computer systems, with the attackers demanding a ransom payment of around $50,000 in bitcoin to unlock the data. The deadline for payment was yesterday.