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Did malware cause the crash of Spanair Flight JK 5022? (update)


The inquiry into the August 2008 crash of Spanair Flight JK 5022 at Barajas Airport in Madrid took a bizarre turn recently when Spanish daily El Pais reported that the server that the airline used to track technical problems on aircraft contained malware. Although the flaps and slats were not in the proper position for takeoff, the crew was never alerted -- causing the flight to go down moments after takeoff, killing all but 18 of the 172 on board. That's not to say that human error wasn't a factor: as well as causing an audible alarm, the problem should have been spotted by the mechanic or airport maintenance chief, both of whom are under investigation. Space stations, power grids, and now airline safety systems? Please, people -- keep your antivirus software up to date.

Update: Of the many possibilities that could have brought down JK 5022, it turns out malware was pretty low on the list -- ZDNet's Ed Bott reports that it was a maintenance computer at the airline's HQ that was infected, and the plane itself (an MD-82) uses a takeoff warning system that predates airplane computerization, and was thus not susceptible to viruses.

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