Industry News

Civil Aviation and Cyber Terrorism: vulnerabilities set to be exploited

Approximately 2.6 billion people use air travel each year, while 48 million tons of freight are being transported, which makes aviation essential to worldwide infrastructure. Consequently, and as the need for regulated international cyber laws increase, an international policy regarding civil aviation and cybersecurity should be a priority for government officials worldwide. Greater focus must be placed on experiments such as Hugo Teso’s PlaneSploit research to close existing gaps in software vulnerability, as well as security weaknesses. Kerri Heitner considers the real challenges facing the industry, whilst others speculate that the recent loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 might have been the first ever cyber-hijacking of a commercial airliner.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession in the world. In August 2013, the AIAA released a paper, “A Framework for Aviation Cybersecurity” in which President of the AIAA Jim Albaugh said, “It is my hope that the world’s aviation community implements the framework proposed in this paper to better safeguard and ensure the future of aviation. Only a vigilant, unified, and coordinated approach will allow us to craft the best possible defences against the sophisticated and ever-evolving range of threats we face.”

The agency notes the lack of an international policy as well as the underlying factor (all safety aside) that this is a $2.2 trillion enterprise that needs protection. When factoring in the safety issues, taking remote control of an aircraft or manipulating its flight path from the ground, whether it is an airplane, helicopter or a drone, would be a terrorist’s dream.

The AIAA Framework verifies that there is no common standard to define what cybersecurity means in regard to aviation and what should be done in the event of a cyber attack. This standard must be defined and implemented throughout governments, airports, airlines and their manufacturers. The responsibility must also be shared between the public and private sector. Governments have to work with the aviation industry to ensure the best possible counterterrorism methods are being practiced.


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