Cyber attacks have been ruled out as the cause of major IT glitches suffered by United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wednesday.
Both organisations were plagued by IT problems on 8 July, which forced United Airlines to ground flights for two hours and the NYSE to close for over three hours.
US homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement (video below) given at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies that the outages were down to technical problems and were not caused by hackers or denial-of-service attacks.
"It appears that today we had system malfunctions at United, at the NYSE and The Wall Street Journal," he said.
"I have spoken to the CEO of United, Jeff Smisek, myself. It appears from what we know at this stage that the malfunctions at United and the stock exchange were not the result of any nefarious actor."
United took to Twitter to explain and apologise for the disruptions, which it attributed to "a network connectivity issue".
We know how important your travel plans are to you, and we’re sorry for today’s disruptions. https://t.co/kHGSiWiFv0— United (@united) July 8, 2015
Passengers on grounded flights also aired their views on social networks. One passenger claimed that the pilot of her flight acknowledged that United's computer systems were down. The airline has yet to reveal details about the glitch.
Our @united airlines pilot on their global outage. "It's like someone pulled the plug on our computers - It's embarrassing, I apologize ."— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BFischerMartin) July 8, 2015
The NYSE problem was revealed to be an internal technical fault, but again details of the affected systems have not been revealed.
The exchange said in a Twitter post that the outage was not caused by hackers.
(1 of 3) The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach.— NYSE (@NYSE) July 8, 2015
The IT problems forced the NYSE to suspend trading for nearly four hours, making it the biggest outage at a US financial market for nearly two years.
The United and NYSE IT systems are up and running again, but the problems highlight the reliance of major organisations on IT and the need to put robust systems in place to prevent system failures.
IT outages can have significant effects on businesses, particularly those dealing with online interactions and e-commerce.
Apple suffered cloud outages in March that knocked the App Store and iTunes offline and cost the company £17m in lost sales.
O2 suffered network problems over the May bank holiday that caused widespread service outages.
Author's View: Digital transformation and technology adoption are regularly touted as the future for businesses looking to be more efficient, cost-effective and modern.
The advantages of ‘digital transformation' are significant, but IT outages can cripple businesses without robust backup systems and failsafe mechanisms in place.
However, providers of cloud services are often located in data centres with redundancy systems and disaster recovery and backup services designed to keep businesses going in the face of technical, physical or external challenges.
All of which makes a compelling argument for enterprises to ditch internal IT systems and migrate to the cloud.
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