'First of its kind' computer hack grounded Polish LOT aeroplanes

A cyber-attack against Polish flagship carrier LOT grounded around 1,400 passengers at Warsaw’s Chopin airport on Sunday in what officials described as the “first attack of its kind”.

The hackers attacked the airline's ground computer system, used to issue flight plans, in the afternoon. It was fixed later that evening, but led to 10 cancelled flights and another 12 delayed. “This is the first attack of its kind,” Adrian Kubicki, spokesman for LOT, told TVN 24, while the source of the hack remains unknown.

The airline said in a statement on its website that the IT attack jeopardised its ability to create flight plans. Flights to Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Copenhagen and Polish cities were affected, although LOT stressed that the glitch did not affect the airport or aeroplanes that were already in the air.    

LOT was taking care of the passengers on Sunday evening and some were already able to board flights. LOT said it was providing hotels for those who needed to stay overnight, and flights destined for Warsaw were able to land safely, without other airports being affected.

“We're using state-of-the-art computer systems, so this could potentially be a threat to others in the industry,” Kubicki said. “The attack is now being investigated by the authorities.”

Concerns around aviation are on the rise, with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) saying in December that cyber-crime was a serious threat to safety in the skies. In April a report also warned that hackers could exploit in-flight entertainment systems to sabotage cockpit electronics.  

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