Williams F1 car launch disrupted by data leak

by Joseph K. Clark

The planned 5 March launch of the 2021 Williams Racing Formula One team car, the FW43B, has been disrupted by malicious actors who accessed the back end of an augmented reality app that the team had developed to show off its new car and leaked details online.

The team, which works extensively with cyber security firm Acronis to protect its data, pulled the app from the Apple App Store and Google Play shortly before the planned online event. According to GPfans, the app would have enabled viewers to project a full-size, 3D model of the FW43B into their homes and was also set to host a virtual meet-and-greet with the team’s bosses and drivers.

launch disrupted

“Williams Racing planned to reveal its 2021 challenger, the FW43B, via an augmented reality app later today [5 March],” a team spokesperson said in a statement. “However, sadly, because the app was hacked before launch, this will no longer be possible.

“We were very much looking forward to sharing this experience with our fans, particularly during this difficult time when being able to bring in-person experiences directly to our fans is sadly not possible. We can only apologize.”

Williams driver George Russell tweeted: “Massive shame. I’ve seen the app, and it was going to be an awesome experience for you guys. Whoever did this, seriously not cool.”

The formerly family-run team, which was sold last year to private equity house Dorilton Capital, hopes to make a return to racing form in 2021 after a run of bad luck in recent seasons.

Last month, the team renewed an ongoing relationship with Acronis – which dates back to 2014 – to further extend its use of its Cyber Protect data protection and management suite across its entire IT infrastructure.

The product, which several other sports teams use, including Atlético Madrid and the San Diego Padres, is designed to integrate fast and reliable backup, an artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced antivirus and malware solution, and endpoint management from behind a single-pane-of-glass interface.

Acronis says this approach eliminates the complexity and makes it simple for security teams to manage and monitor workloads, data, applications, and systems across their networks.

At the time of writing, there is no evidence to link the incident with any kind of substantial cyber security failure beyond the affected app. Williams has given no indication that any of its core systems or data were accessed in the incident. Computer Weekly has contacted Williams to establish the scale of the incident and will update this article as we receive more information.

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