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  (Source: travelbrook.com)
Report links flash drive to Flight 5022

A corrupted USB stick contributed to Spain's worst air disaster on record, according to a 12,000-page report cited by the Spanish newspaper El Pais and USA Today.

It was initially believed that the crash of Flight 5022 that killed 154 people in 2008 was the result of pilot error, but investigators have now concluded that a computer infection spread through an infected USB stick may have contributed to the crash. 

Investigators speculate that trojan malware may have slowed down system alerts at the airline's headquarters which could have canceled or delayed the doomed flight. The report indicates that the computer failed to detect three problems (including one issue with the airplane's wing flaps being in the incorrect position for takeoff) in a fail-safe monitoring system and that those problems were brought on by a malicious program that came from the USB thumb drive. 

Spanair has been ordered by a judge to provide all of the company's computer logs from the days before and after the crash.  A final report from crash investigators is expected by December.

One expert warns that with continued use of flash drives and other third party devices in systems like these, this type of tragedy could happen again.

Senior manager of security research at Arbor Networks, Jose Nazario, said that many USB thumb drive attacks take advantage of security weaknesses in Windows auto run, a basic component built into the Windows operating system.

"Think about how many USB sticks you have. You're probably under counting. Everyone does," said Nazario.  "Now think about how many sticks in the past month your laptop has used, and think about how many other systems you have used your USB sticks on. This is like those classic HIV commercials, where you're with everyone that person has been with before."

 



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RE: First Question
By MrTeal on 8/23/2010 4:39:50 PM , Rating: 5
The malware wasn't on the flight computer, it was on the airline's central computer. The crash itself was caused by the plane taking off in an incorrect configuration with the flaps and slats retracted. It was the fault of the pilot and copilot. The malware just prevented the airline HQ from detecting the problem and stopping the flight.

And just to clarify and lift a quote from XKCD, if you need anti-virus on your flight computer "you're doing it wrong"


RE: First Question
By PrinceGaz on 8/23/2010 9:29:04 PM , Rating: 1
That's quite correct.

Of course things have moved on from then and you'd probably be safer today on a plane with a "pilot" which was actually a triple-parallel system each running under Windows 7 which flew the plane provided two of the three agreed, with a trained human pilot on standby should the computers be unable to come to a majority decision or should automated landing guidance be unavailable.

Who would you trust most to fly your plane? A human pilot who may be distracted by personal issues, or three PCs running Windows 7?


RE: First Question
By robinthakur on 8/24/2010 6:59:35 AM , Rating: 2
Whilst I like Windows 7 on my desktop, there's no way in hell I would trust my life to even 3 seperate computers running it. I would bet you anything that if it became known that a Microsoft OS was basically flying your plane, nobody would want to fly anymore...


RE: First Question
By GotDiesel on 8/24/2010 11:48:20 AM , Rating: 2
The pilot of course..


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