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Malware may have caused 2008 Madrid plane crash


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Deaths of 154 people possibly down to infected central system

A 2008 plane crash in Madrid that killed 154 people may have been caused by malware in a central computer system that failed to register technical problems in the aircraft.

A report in Spanish newspaper El País claimed that three problems that should have been noticed by the system went undetected, causing the accident.

If the report is true, it represents a worrying example of the way in which vital computing systems can be undermined by attacks from viruses.

Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, said in a blog post that, if malware was the cause of the accident, it was probably not intentional, but represents an example of the danger it can cause.

"Over the years, we have seen real-world infrastructure affected by computer problems. In most cases, this has been just a side effect; the malware behind the problem wasn't trying to take systems down, it just did," he wrote.

Hyppönen cited incidents in 2003 when worms called Slammer and Blaster caused widespread problems in a large number of areas, including transport.

"Slammer dramatically slowed down the network traffic of the entire internet. Many international airports reported air traffic control systems slowed down. Emergency phone systems were reported to have problems in different parts of the US," he said.

"The worm even managed to enter the internal network of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio, taking down the computer monitoring the state of the nuclear reactor."

Hyppönen also noted that Blaster affected banking networks, airline flight systems, rail signalling systems and the US State Department's visa system.

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The most terrfying thing is that that key powerplant and other infrastructure isn't hooked on the internet. I mean not that I say that nothing there is connected to the internet, but key parts of the power plant etc. are NOT on the internet...and there isn't any need for it lol.

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