It all started with a daunting internal memo, reportedly sent by the chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, Mike VanderWel. The document, first reported on by the Seattle Times, warned employees of a possible shutdown of Boeing facilities due to a rapidly advancing computer virus. The memo reportedly blamed the notorious WannaCry ransomware for the imminent disruption of Boeing production sites and, potentially, its flying software.
“It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,”VanderWel reportedly wrote. Fueling the fears further, he predicted the malware could affect equipment needed to tune aircraft, and that it might “spread to airplane software.”
Referring to the attack as a major one with potentially far-reaching consequences, the engineer called for “all hands on deck,” noting that the facility that came under the malware attack was “on a call with just about every VP in Boeing.”
Soon after the story gained traction in the media, Boeing refuted the rumors, arguing that while it was in fact subjected to a malware attack, its scale was blown up by the media and the reports were “overstated and inaccurate.”
A “limited intrusion of malware” took place “that affected a small number of systems,” the statement from the company’s spokesperson reads, noting that the issue is being solved and it has been never “a production or delivery issue.”
The malware reportedly infected a number of older systems, which have since been fixed, a Boeing official told CBS.
The worldwide outbreak of the WannaCry cyber-attacks in May 2017 crippled some 200,000 computers. In the attack, personal data was stolen by hackers who demanded a ransom in bitcoin. Following months of speculations that Pyongyang could have played a role in the hack, officials in December blamed North Korea for orchestrating the attack, citing the “evidence” discovered in the process of the investigation.
Microsoft chimed in, accusing North Korea of perpetrating the attack with “cyber tools or weapons stolen from the NSA.”
North Korea slammed the allegations as a “baseless provocation,” while accusing Washington of using the attack as a pretext to ramp up tensions, and demanding it to provide the evidence.