The French Navy recently suffered the grounding of its Rafale fighter aircraft after a computer virus attack prevented pilots from downloading their flight plans according to French media reports. French newspaper Liberation reported the virus to have infected the French Navy’s databases leaving the Rafales ‘nailed to the ground’ on January 15 and 16 this year.
The Dassault aircraft Rafale is one of the six contenders for the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender issued by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Conficker virus, which spreads through the Windows operating system was warned of by Microsoft according to news sources in France. “It affected exchanges of information but no information was lost. It was a security problem we had already simulated. We cut the communication links that could have transmitted the virus and 99 per cent of the network is safe,” Navy spokesman Jerome Erulin told Ouest France newspaper.
The virus, detected on January 21, reportedly attacked the non-secured internal French navy network called Intramar with the result that military staff were instructed not to switch on their computers. During the down time, the French Navy was forced to use more dated communication methods like telephone, fax and even the post. The infection was reportedly caused by an infected USB key.
But the French Navy clarified, “The computer virus problem had no effect on the availability of our forces.” Liberation also reported that the chiefs of staff and the defense ministry had no idea how many computers or military information systems were vulnerable to having been contaminated by the virus. But Defense Tech military review has also reported a virus attack in early January 2009 to have struck the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy infecting even the carrier HMS Ark Royal.