Nothing worked anymore. According to exclusive information obtained by CargoForwarder Global, the German Federal Aviation Office Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) was entirely cut off the Internet and e-mail traffic for about 40 hours last week. Similar to the LBA, other subordinate bodies belonging to the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) were hit by the electronic blackout. The good news is, it wasn’t a bug paralyzing the system.
The anger began last Wednesday afternoon. From then on, regulator LBA was suddenly disconnected from electronic access.
So anyone wanting to visit their site or get in touch by email with individual departments or officials was unable to do so.
Next day, Thursday, the disruption ended for a relatively short period of time but started anew some hours later. At least, the slot enabled the LBA press department to place a message on their website, informing potential applicants or site visitors that a network failure has caused disruptions. The message ended with a recommendation to make use of phones or faxes to get in contact with the aviation authority if urgently required.
Damages cannot be excluded
The trouble lasted until Friday afternoon when the computers of the 850 LBA staff started working again and email exchange functioned undisturbed.
At this point of time it is unknown, what sort of damage - if at all - the electronic cut-off has caused. But impairments can never be excluded in case a central authority is deprived of vital communication means and paralyzed for quite some time. It is conceivable, for instance, that charter flights crossing German airspace could not be registered and permitted by the regulator, if applications were not sent by fax. Likewise, new commercial or private aircraft could not be registered and get green light for immediate utilization, a situation that regularly occurs at the end of a week. Similarly, wet lease contracts could not be officially confirmed nor did new aircraft insurance policies get the regulator’s official okay.
These and similar hiccups could have been caused by the blackout, but - since evidence and data are missing - it may also be that no one was harmed as result of the collapse of the electronic communications channels.
Many authorities were affected by the blackout
It is interesting to note, which doesn’t make it any better, that next to the LBA all other sub-authorities of the Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure were hit by the breakdown of the e-system. For instance, the Federal Railroad Office, the Waterways and Shipping Administration of the Federal Government or the Federal Motor Vehicle and Transport Authority, Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt.
A request posted last Friday by CargoForwarder Global addressing the press office of the Ministry asking for detailed information concerning the cause and possible damages resulting from the disruption remained unanswered.
This is even more astonishing since IT issues, including supply security belong to the ministry’s core competences.
Unusual flow of information
Instead of Berlin, enlightenment came from Offenbach near Frankfurt, where the German Weather Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst - DWD) is based. Asked by CargoForwarder Global what led to the long-lasting breakdown of the electronic highway, DWD spokesman Uwe Kirsche confirmed that all subordinate departments of the BMVI ministry are connected to DWD’s central server. As to the cause he said that a central fibre cable had either been torn or severely damaged for reasons unknown. The issue is subject to investigations by technical experts. He went on to say that DWD’s internal network was not affected. Therefore, the weather agency’s press people didn’t have the faintest idea of any IT problems the LBA and other authorities belonging to the BMVI were facing. “Good thing you approached us so it was you that informed us about the disruption,” Kirsche said.
The blackout ended last Friday at 2:30 p.m.