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Major Indian airline suffers ransomware attack

Customers of the second largest airline in India have taken to social media to express concerns.

Budget Indian carrier SpiceJet has said a ransomware attack was to blame for flight delays and cancellations that left hundreds of passengers stranded on their planes
Budget Indian carrier SpiceJet has said a ransomware attack was to blame for flight delays and cancellations that left hundreds of passengers stranded on their planes - Copyright AFP DIBYANGSHU SARKAR
Budget Indian carrier SpiceJet has said a ransomware attack was to blame for flight delays and cancellations that left hundreds of passengers stranded on their planes - Copyright AFP DIBYANGSHU SARKAR

India’s second largest airline, SpiceJet, has been faced with a ransomware attack that has caused flight delays ranging from two to five hours. The incident led the airline to be unavailable online booking systems and inaccessible customer service.

SpiceJet said in a subsequent statement that the situation had been rectified.

“Our IT team has contained and rectified the situation and flights are operating normally now,” it tweeted.

While SpiceJet’s IT team was able to thwart the attack before it fully took over, customers and employees are still experiencing the ramifications. This attempted attack follows a January 2020 data breach that “allowed an unauthorized individual to access a database backup file on one of the airline’s poorly protected servers,” resulting in the exposure of 1,200,000 passengers’ personal information.

Looking into the matter for Digital Journal is Josh Rickard, Security Automation Architect at Swimlane.

Rickard  recounts the specific incident affecting the airline: “Although SpiceJet was able to curb this attack before it was able to take over fully, most of the time organizations faced with similar cyberattacks aren’t so lucky, and even so, consequences still stand.”

With the specific detail, Rickard finds: “In this case, customers of the second largest airline in India have taken to social media to express concerns over severely delayed flights and other online access issues.”

In other words, SpiceJet is fortunate that these are the extent of their problems. Rickard  warns: “had systems been fully breached, they could be facing more severe ramifications consisting of exposed data, system-wide outages and reputation damage.”

The airline was not so lucky during a previous incident, Rickard reminds readers: “It’s worth noting that SpiceJet also experienced a data breach in January 2020 that resulted in the personal information of over one million customers being exposed. This, in addition to this latest incident, is a highly concerning pattern.”

Many businesses could have been in a similar situation, says Rickard . He sets out the following preventive actions: “To ensure that organizations are prepared to defend against similar cyber incidents, and requisite day-to-day operations are able to occur without disruption, it is essential that security and IT teams have full visibility into their environments.”

Rickard adds: “Leveraging low-code security automation allows these teams to respond to threats in real time to limit the consequences of these attacks, as well as minimize the chance of human error within IT processes by centralizing and automating detection, response and investigation protocols into a single platform.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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