United Airlines hit in further power outage for airline industry

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The world’s third largest airline, United Airlines has been a dealt a serious blow today as a reported ‘systems issue’ has delayed flights worldwide this morning.

At 8.15am London time, United said: “As of 3 am ET [Eastern Time], the system issue has been resolved. Any delayed flights are resuming”.

As we reported in our blog of 6 September, the previous month, Delta, the world’s largest carrier experienced a worldwide ‘systems failure’ and in September, BA passengers suffered long delays after what was described as ‘a problem with our check-in system’.

So what was to blame?  Cyber security experts remain sceptical about the public attributions of the airlines to causes other than cyber attack, however with airlines heavily dependant on their computer systems for almost every aspect of their operations there still remain a number of possibilities .  Yes, cyber attack by a malicious actor could be one possibility, however it could also have been a patching issue; a lack of immediate failover to their back up system; or even a third party to blame in the chain.  Yet, Delta is huge – and an organisation of its size is going to have pretty substantial IT systems and robust security measures in place to protect its infrastructure and passenger safety.

Ultimately, we may have suspicions but will have to wait and see if any further details come to light about these incidents. In the end it is unlikely that the airlines themselves will choose to disclose the root cause for fear of giving anyone any insight into any potential system vulnerabilities.

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