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Boeing operations hit with crippling WannaCry computer virus

(AP)

The WannaCry computer virus struck Boeing Wednesday, threatening its equipment, production, and potentially its operational airplanes.

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Boeing has responded to news of the incident with a short statement that the issue was minor and won’t result in production or delivery problems.

The Seattle Times reports that Mike VanderWel — a chief engineer with Boeing Commercial Airplane production — sent a memo to employees stating “all hands on deck.” According to the Times, that memo states:

It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down.

WannaCry is the same ransomware virus that struck nearly 200,000 computers worldwide in 2017. Many hospitals and transit agencies were affected. It targets Microsoft operating systems.

“It holds your system for ransom by locking you out of your computer or the software that you need to access to do your work,” GeekWire’s Nat Levy told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don. “It kicks you out until you pay a ransom of some sort. Sometimes it’s cash, sometimes it’s bitcoin. It basically knocks your operation down by implanting this virus into your system.”

Levy said there is always a chance that such a virus could spread to the company’s Northwest operations. While he is never too surprised by big companies being struck by viruses, he is a little startled by Boeing getting hit.

“Boeing is interesting because it has so much on the line, security-wise,” Levy said. “It’s got so much national defense work. If you are going to be surprised by anyone being hit by this, you are going to be surprised by a company with that level of security.”

VanderWel wrote that he was on call with nearly every vice president at Boeing. He is concerned the virus could affect functional tests of airplanes ready to “roll out.” There is also potential the virus could spread to functioning airplane computer software.

The Times notes that VanderWel called for a battery-like response. This is possibly in reference to a 2013 incident. In-flight battery fires grounded the company’s fleet of Dreamliners, which took three months to fix.

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