US Flights resume after reported Computer Glitch Is Solved
If critical infrastructure is damaged the first thing that comes to mind is: was it the cause of a cyberattack?
Then on Wednesday officials from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an “ground stop”” which prevented aircraft from flying because of an overnight system malfunction.
“The FAA has ordered airlines to stop all domestic departures up to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time to let the agency verify the accuracy of safety and flight information,” the FAA, part of the Department of Transportation, reported early on Wednesday morning.
The issue was caused by an interruption caused by the FAA’s method of communicating real-time information about the flight safety and restrictions to all pilots of commercial airlines, known as NOTAM, which stands in reference to “Notice to Air Missions.”
The ground stop created disruption in U.S. airports, as passengers were left without a place to go or delayed. Although planes may still take off, the disruptions resulted in delays of 6,000 flights and 1,000 cancellations according to tracking firm FlightAware.
The White House moved quickly to discredit suggestions that cyberattacks could have caused the outage.
“The president was instructed by the transportation secretary today about the FAA system’s malfunction,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said via Twitter.
“There are no indications of cyberattacks at the present moment, but the president ordered DOT to conduct an extensive inquiry into the cause. The FAA will keep you informed of the update,” she added.
Just a little shy at nine a.m. Eastern Time, the FAA stopped with a ground stop.
“The FAA has concluded that the system of safety impacted by the outage overnight is fully restored and the ground stop across the nation will be lifted immediately.” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tweeted at 8:55 am Eastern Time.
“I have supervised an after-action plan to find the root cause of the issue and suggest the next steps,” the official added.
What exactly the after-action report has identified as the cause behind the NOTAM issue remains to be determined.
The investigation continues Wednesday evening, the FAA issued the following update: “Our preliminary work has located the source of the problem to be the database file being damaged. There are no indications of cyberattacks.”
Royal Mail Disruption
Also on Wednesday, the post office, the national service Royal Mail, advised customers that they were “experiencing significant service disruptions in our export services to international destinations in the aftermath of a cyber attack,” and recommended they put off sending items to other countries.
— Cheechako (@dantechservices) January 11, 2023
“We’re experiencing disruptions to our export services to international destinations and are temporarily in a position to not send items to destinations overseas,” Royal Mail said. “Items which have been shipped could be delayed.
We’d like to deeply apologize to customers affected by the incident for any inconvenience this incident has caused. Import operations at our company continue to offer full-service, but with slight delays.”
It also added: “Our teams are working 24/7 to solve the issue and will notify you when we have more details.”
Cyberattack Question Deja Vu
A strange outage or delay in the present – not only FAA systems, but IT issues at British airports power grids, power outages within South America, a U.S. Navy destroyer collision with a tanker for merchants and a tanker – immediately prompt the “was it an attack on cyberspace?” question.
These incidents illustrate that online attacks are seldom at fault.
In the year 2019, the tongue-in cheek Cyber Squirrel 1 website tracked more than 30 years of data related to 2 524 worldwide power outages. Three of them could be traced to humans, and in the form of attacks on nation states that include The Ukrainian power outages that occurred in 2015 and 2016 as well as Stuxnet that was first discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be the result of a program operated by both the United States and Israel.
The other issues were not as severe; the primary culprit was clearly squirrels. They were followed closely by snakes, birds and Raccoons.
For IT problems the digital version of a squirrel is famous. “It is DNS. It’s always DNS.” the cybersecurity specialist Jake Williams, a former part of The National Security Agency’s offensive hackers group, concerning the FAA system’s outage.