Marussia F1 testing disrupted by Trojan malware

With many rule changes to cope with, pre-season testing for Marussia was disrupted by malware. (Source: Marussia)

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26 February 2014 | 0

The Marussia Formula 1 racing team has admitted losing an entire day’s race testing at the recent preseason session in Bahrain, after the computer systems used for in-car telemetry were disrupted by Trojan malware.

The UK-based and Russian-sponsored team did not specify which Trojan caused the problems nor why it caused such a headache, but the fact it was even mentioned suggests that the incident was significant.

“It started off with the first disaster, which was a computer Trojan-type virus in the racks, which cost us the best part of the day,” team principal John Booth told motoring magazine Autosport. “That set the tone for the week.”

The team reportedly completed only 29 laps in the entire four days, the least of any team. Most of that was completed on day two when 17 laps were completed. The Trojan hit on day three which turned it into a write-off.

F1 teams depend on complex telemetry that collects data from a variety of car systems in real time, allowing constant performance management, allowing teams to make strategy decisions and monitor potential issues. Whereas Formula 1 was once a sport for hardcore petrol heads, these days the computer engineer is just as important as a mechanic.

The Formula 1 season opens in Australia on 16 March before returning to Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit for a night-time race on 6 April. The loss of track time preseason is a particular blow, as this year a whole host of new rules has been introduced, including an engine rule change that sees the return of turbocharged units for the first time since the 1980s. Unsurprisingly, this has upset the order of performance, with Mercedes-powered cars being far ahead in the form of Mercedes and McLaren, with the Renault-powered teams, and Red Bull in particular, experiencing technical difficulties in terms of outright pace and reliability. In this environment of uncertainty, the loss of a day’s testing is particular regrettable.

Perhaps the most famous unlikely places malware has turned up include the International Space Station worm attack of 2008, and in 2011 the USAF’s Nevada Creech Air Force Base on the networks used to co-ordinate global drone strikes. The latter incident was later blamed on a gaming keylogger.

 

John E Dunn, IDG News Service and TechCentral Reporters

 

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