Dr. Abdulla Al Hashimi is the Divisional Senior Vice President for Emirates Group Security who has strived to create a pro-active, risk-based security regime to protect one of the world’s most prestigious carriers and to serve as an example of industry best practice. Philip Baum asks Dr Al Hashimi for his thoughts on the threats of today, the challenges of tomorrow and for his views on the steps which can, and are, being taken to ensure a safe and secure aviation industry.
PB: What do you think the primary threats to civil aviation are today – from a global perspective?
AAH: In recent years, there have been a number of incidents allegedly attributed to cyberattacks which demonstrates the vulnerabilities in the civil aviation system. Also, the insider threat has been and always will be a concern.
PB: And, as a carrier, based in the Middle East, to what extent does the political instability of the region impact upon your own security programme?
AAH: A tailored approach to security is required. If there is a commercial demand to fly to a particular city, then, as a minimum, we must be satisfied that we are able to operate our aircraft into and out of the airport, or perform a layover, safely.
In certain cases when it becomes too risky, we do cease our operations at the location. For example, in Yemen and Libya. As far as our hub and network is concerned, we work closely with the authorities and our staff across our network so we can make informed risk-based decisions. We ensure that we have the highest standards of layered security systems and measures; and of course well-trained and qualified staff.
PB: Which areas do you feel the global aviation security community has failed to effectively address?
AAH: Traditional aspects of cargo security and the new threat of cybercrime are issues the industry could do more to tackle. However, of more pertinent concern is the industry’s ability to work with government intelligence agencies on threats of military action and turmoil that could affect civil aviation and landing airlines as accidental victims and collateral damage. While there have already been talks on this topic, a more concrete approach should be taken.
PB: What has Emirates done to specifically address these concerns?
AAH: Emirates has taken steps to conduct its own screening regime for air cargo in areas of high concern. For this reason, Emirates was the first airline which was able to secure the AAC3 certification. As far as cybercrime is concerned, Emirates is not working alone. It has been collaborating extensively with the airport community and also Interpol.
PB: People often argue against the use of ‘behavioural analysis’ or ‘passenger profiling’ as there is a concern that decisions will be based on racial or ethnic stereotypes. As a carrier based in the United Arab Emirates, to what extent do you feel there is a role for behavioural analysis in the screening process and how do you respond to the critics?
AAH: Behavioural analysis is one of the variables that any security force in the world would use and Emirates is no exception (and we use it mostly in the area of illegal travel detection). It may not be the overriding variable, but it is used to identify potential suspects whom we should be applying more focus on. To us, ‘profiling’ is the use of any available data of the person and match it with the behaviour of the person at the various touchpoints.
PB: The threat of internally concealed narcotics, or indeed explosives, is a challenge to the security services. What is your opinion regarding the deployment of body scanners for passenger screening? And, of the various technologies on offer, which do you favour?