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Comp virus grounds fighter jets

A virus attack on French military computers has grounded the nation’s naval fighter planes after pilots failed to download their flight plans, media reports said.

world Updated: Feb 09, 2009 00:56 IST

A virus attack on French military computers has grounded the nation’s naval fighter planes after pilots failed to download their flight plans, media reports said.

According to the Liberation newspaper, the virus infected the Navy’s flight databases and Rafale aircraft were “nailed to the ground” on January 15 and 16 because they were unable to “download their flight plans”.

Though Microsoft had warned several months back that the “Conficker” virus, transmitted through Windows, was attacking computers, media reports claimed the French military ignored the warning and failed to take the necessary measures, British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph reported.

However, the French Navy has admitted that during the time it took to eradicate the virus, it had to return to more traditional forms of communication — telephone, fax and post. “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 Jérome Erulin told Ouest France newspaper.

In fact, the virus attacked the non-secured internal French navy network called Intramar and was detected on January 21. The whole network was affected and military staff were instructed not to start their computers.

According to the Liberation, two days later the chiefs of staff decided to isolate Intramar from military’s other computer systems, but certain computers at Villacoublay air base and in the 8th Transmissions Regiment were infected.

However, naval officials said that the “infection” was probably due more to negligence than a deliberate attempt to compromise French national security. “The computer virus problem had no effect on availability of our forces.”