A ransomware attack prevented an English airport from using its flight information screens to assist passengers in their travels.
On 13 September, Bristol Airport tweeted out that its flight information systems were experiencing technical difficulties.
We are currently experiencing technical problems with our flight information screens. Flights are unaffected and details of check-in desks, boarding gates, and arrival/departure times will be made over the public address system. Additional staff are on hand to assist passengers
— Bristol Airport (@BristolAirport) September 14, 2018
For the two days that followed, the airport advised passengers to arrive early to allow for extra time in checking in and boarding their flights. Airport staff used its public address system to notify passengers of flight information during that span of time. They also displayed the information using paper posters and whiteboards, as shared by one Instagram user.
The airport announced on 15 September that it had restored live flight information to its screens at key locations in the terminal. It also thanked passengers for their understanding and patience.
We are grateful to passengers for their patience while we have been working to resolve issues with flight information this weekend. Digital screens are now live in arrivals and departures. Work will continue to restore complete site-wide coverage as soon as possible.
— Bristol Airport (@BristolAirport) September 16, 2018
James Gore, a spokesman for Bristol Airport, attributed the outage of its flight information screens to ransomware and said that no ransom had been paid to restore those screens’ functionality. As quoted by BBC News:
We believe there was an online attempt to target part of our administrative systems and that required us to take a number of applications offline as a precautionary measure, including the one that provides our data for flight information screens. That was done to contain the problem and avoid any further impact on more critical systems. The indications are that this was a speculative attempt rather than targeted attack on Bristol Airport.
This isn’t the first time an airport has suffered a malware attack. Boryspil, an international airport based in Kiev, suffered an infection by BlackEnergy malware in the beginning of 2016. Less than two years later, it was one of several Ukrainian organizations to report the first infections of NotPetya, a form of wiper malware which infected vulnerable machines around the world and cost some companies hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
As of this writing, Bristol Airport was still working to restore “complete site-wide coverage” of its flight information screens following the unnamed ransomware attack.