The increasing digital footprint of planes means that protecting data has added cyber security significance.

As digitization and connectivity continue to play a key role in airline operations, carriers must be robust in dealing with the risks that come attached with both.

Such developments have increased efficiency across the board, but it has also opened up airlines and their aircraft to vulnerabilities such as cyber attacks. 

At IATA’s Global Media Day in December, Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo, Security addressed the importance of understanding the cyber threat.

New levels of vulnerability also arise from technological advancements, as airlines today face an ever-changing field of cyber attacks

“These technological advancements are creating tremendous opportunities for flight efficiency, customer service, security, and operations,” said Careen.

“However, as a result new levels of vulnerability also arise from this progress as airlines today face an ever-changing field of cyber attacks.”

He added that the connectivity of aircraft systems has extended the potential attack surface to the aircraft itself.

In addition, the increasing digital footprint of planes means that protecting data has taken on a new significance as illustrated by the data breaches Cathay Pacific and British Airways suffered in 2018.

Careen denied claims from some hackers that they have the ability to access critical flight systems by hacking passengers’ personal devices in flight.

“This is not the case,” he said. “That’s not to rule out the danger, as no threat can ever be ruled out 100%, but so far manufacturers have confirmed that no critical flight systems have ever been at risk from such a threat.”

Cyber security is a key priority for aviation, demonstrated by a resolution at the 40th ICAO Assembly which committed to address cyber security issues through a “cross-cutting” functional approach.

IATA has welcomed the resolution, which urges states to implement the ICAO Cybersecurity Strategy and ensure civil aviation remains safe, trusted and resilient to cyber attacks while continuing to prosper.

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