TL;DR – This is a follow-up exchange with ChatGPT on the latest announcement from the FAA on the NOTAM system outage on January 11th. It continues to impress me with its ability to analysis problems with minimal input and apply sound judgment.
FAA announced new details on the cause of NOTAM system outage. The FAA’s initial reports pointed to a corrupt file as the cause of the outage. The FAA’s latest announcement was that a contractor “deleted files while working to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database.” Any thoughts?
Based on the new information provided by the FAA, it appears that the outage of the NOTAM system was caused by a contractor mistakenly deleting files while working to synchronize the live primary database and a backup database. This is a significant issue and highlights the importance of proper procedures and protocols for maintaining and updating critical systems.
It is important to note that the FAA is an organization that is in charge of maintaining and updating the NOTAM system, and the contractors they hire to do the job should have proper training and knowledge in order to avoid such kind of mistakes.
It is also important to have a robust system in place for recovery in case of such incidents. This might include having multiple backups, as well as a well-tested and rehearsed plan for recovery. Additionally, it’s important to have a robust system of monitoring, detection and alerting in place so that any issues with the system can be identified quickly and resolved before they cause a widespread disruption.
In general, this incident highlights the importance of proper training, procedures, and protocols for maintaining and updating critical systems, as well as the importance of robust recovery and monitoring systems.
Is the concept of development, test and staging environments separate from production applicable here? I realized that databases are not code in the strict sense, but it would seem that they could have had a testing environment. Is this too simple a concept? Do some legacy systems not lend themselves to this or were designed prior to this concept?
The concept of development, test, and staging environments separate from production is a standard practice in software development and can certainly be applied to systems that involve databases as well.
It would be ideal for the FAA to have a separate testing environment for the NOTAM system, where the contractors can test and validate their changes before applying them to the live system. This would allow for any bugs or issues to be identified and resolved before they can cause a widespread disruption.
It’s possible that the NOTAM system was designed and built prior to the widespread adoption of this concept, or that it may not have been feasible to implement due to the complexity and unique requirements of the system. Additionally, there may be other factors that make it difficult to implement a separate testing environment, such as budget constraints or a lack of resources.
It’s also worth noting that even if the NOTAM system does not have a separate testing environment, there should still be robust procedures in place to ensure that changes to the system are thoroughly tested and validated before they are implemented in production. This might include implementing a change control process, thorough testing, and review by multiple parties before changes are made.
In general, it’s important to have robust testing and validation procedures in place to ensure that changes to a system do not cause unintended consequences, especially for critical systems like the NOTAM system.
Do you think the latest announcement from the FAA indicates human error being the sole cause of the corrupt/deleted file or could there still be a chance for malware contributing to this?
The FAA’s latest announcement regarding the cause of the NOTAM system outage states that a contractor “deleted files while working to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database.” This suggests that human error is the main cause of the incident, specifically the contractor’s mistake in deleting files while working on the system.
It is also possible that malware or other forms of cyber-attacks could have played a role in this incident, but there is no information provided by the FAA that suggests this. It is important to note that malware or cyber-attacks could have been used to gain access to the system and then the contractor’s actions could have been the final cause of the incident, however, without any concrete evidence or statement from the FAA, it’s hard to confirm this.
It’s important to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the exact cause of the incident and to identify any contributing factors, including the possibility of a cyber-attack. This might include conducting forensic analysis of the affected systems, reviewing system logs, and interviewing the contractor who deleted the files to understand the full context of the incident.
In general, it’s important to consider all possible causes of an incident, including human error and cyber-attacks, in order to fully understand the root cause and take appropriate measures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.