Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, and after an initial scare within the company that vital airplane-production equipment might be brought down, company executives later offered assurances that the attack had been quashed with minimal damage.
Though news of the attack triggered widespread alarm within the company and among airline customers during the day, by evening Boeing was calling for calm.
“We’ve done a final assessment,” said Linda Mills, the head of communications for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The vulnerability was limited to a few machines. We deployed software patches. There was no interruption to the 777 jet program or any of our programs.”
Earlier in the day, when the cyberattack struck, the reaction was anything but calm.
Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming alert about the virus calling for “All hands on deck.”
“It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” VanderWel wrote, adding his concern that the virus could hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially “spread to airplane software.”
VanderWel’s message said the attack required “a batterylike response,” a reference to the 787 in-flight battery fires in 2013 that grounded the world’s fleet of Dreamliners and led to an extraordinary three-month-long engineering effort to find a fix.
“We are on a call with just about every VP in Boeing,” VanderWel’s memo said.
It took until late Wednesday afternoon before Boeing issued a statement dialing back the fears.
“It took some time for us to go to our South Carolina operations, bring in our entire IT team and make sure we had the facts,” Mills said.
Even then, the afternoon statement was short on detail.
“Our cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small…