Windows Worm Didn't Ground French Planes, Official Claims

The planes had been grounded following a Conflicker worm infection that had spread last month throughout the French nonsecured internal naval network called Intramar.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

February 9, 2009

2 Min Read

French navy officials suspect than an infected USB drive is to blame for a Conflicker/Downandup worm infection last month that interfered with the operation of naval logistics systems running Microsoft Windows.

But a French defense ministry spokesperson has denied reports that the worm grounded French navy jets, as claimed in The Telegraph and several French publications.

Citing a French intelligence publication, Intelligence Online, The Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported on Saturday that the Rafale, a plane used in the French navy, had been grounded following a Conflicker worm infection that had spread last month throughout the French nonsecured internal naval network called Intramar. The worm supposedly interfered with French navy's ability to transfer flight data to its planes.

In October, Microsoft issued an out-of-band Security Bulletin, MS08-067, for a vulnerability affecting its Server service. It warned that the vulnerability was "potentially wormable." As Microsoft feared, the vulnerability was wormable and the worm that was released, known as Conflicker or Downandup, and its variants, affected at least 9 million PCs last month.

According to French newspaper Ouest France, the worm's impact on Intramar forced the French navy to "return to conventional means of communication such as telephone, fax, or regular mail" while the infection was mitigated.

Jerome Erulin, a spokesperson for the French navy, said the incident served as an exercise and that it affected communication but resulted in no data loss.

And in keeping with a long tradition of Anglo-Gallic rivalry, Ouest France observed, "The only consolation for the [French] navy is that it is not alone in facing such problems." Its report notes that last month said that the U.K. Ministry of Defense had begun investigating what appeared to be a major worm-driven breach affecting over 24 RAF bases and 75% of Royal navy ships."

The Telegraph, in its article on the French security incident, reported the finger-pointing of the French press without comment.

Besides the Conflicker/Downandup worm infection, what other security threats are deemed most serious? InformationWeek polled more than 400 business technology professionals to find out. Download the report here (registration required).

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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