SEATTLE – Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, raising fear in the company that it could cripple some vital airplane production equipment.
Later in the day, those worries eased.
Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming memo 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,” VanderWel wrote, adding that he’s concerned that the virus will hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially “spread to airplane software.”
Indicating widespread alarm in the company at the potential affect, VanderWel said the attack required “a battery-like response,” a reference to the 787 in-flight battery fires in 2013 that grounded the world’s fleet of Dreamliners and led to an extraordinary three-month-long engineering effort to find a fix.
Late Wednesday afternoon however, Boeing issued a statement dialing back those fears.
“Our cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems,” Boeing said. “Remediations were applied and this is not a production and delivery issue.”
The WannaCry virus, which exploits a flaw in the Windows operating system to gain access to a network, attacks computer’s software using “ransomware.”
It locks users out of their computers until they pay a fee, sometimes in cryptocurrency, or other type of ransom.
The virus first surfaced in a May 2017 worldwide cyberattack. At the time, the Trump administration blamed North Korea for the attacks.