Friday, February 20, 2009

Computer virus ‘grounds’ fighter planes

A virus attack on French military computers had grounded the nation’s naval fighter planes after pilots failed to download their flight plans, media reports in France said.

According to the Liberation newspaper, the virus infected the Navy’s flight databases and Rafale aircraft were “nailed to the ground” on January 15 and 16.

Though Microsoft had warned several months beforehand that the Conficker virus, transmitted through Windows, was attacking computers, media reports claimed the French military ignored the warning.

However, the Navy has admitted that during the time it took to eradicate the virus, it had to return to more traditional forms of communication – telephone, fax and post.

“It affected exchanges of information but no information was lost. We cut the communication links that could have transmitted the virus and 99 per cent of the network is safe,” Navy spokesman Jérome Erulin said.

In fact, the virus attacked the non-secured internal French navy network called Intramar and was detected on 21 January. The whole network was affected and military staff were instructed not to start their computers.

Naval officials informed that the “infection” was probably due more to negligence than a deliberate attempt to compromise French national security.

“The virus problem had no effect on availability of our forces,” officials said.

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