As per the market estimate, the aviation industry is expected to transport nearly 10 billion passengers by the end of the year 2040. Recent cyber-attacks on major airports worldwide have shown the potential consequences of a successful cyberattack, including disrupted flights, financial losses, data breaches, and harm to passengers and personnel. As cyber- attacks continue to grow in frequency and complexity, airports must prioritize cyber security measures to safeguard against potential threats.

Welcome to the world of cyber security in aviation where reality is often stranger than fiction.

Cybercrime in today’s era has become more organized than those carried out in past, cyber- attacks are growing and intensifying with every passing day. Organizations of all sizes are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and they need to stay one step ahead to deal with potential threats. With air travel set to skyrocket in the coming years, the aviation industry is at greater risk than ever, making it crucial to prioritize cyber security. A single cyber-attack on an airport can unleash a hurricane of chaos, including disruption to passenger and cargo movements, as well as, exploitation of security protocols. This can further result in a chain reaction of consequences, such as cancelled flights, reputational and financial damage, and reduced customer trust. Let’s discuss some preventive measures against cyber threats.

  • Cyber threats don’t come knocking

Threat actors are always looking to exploit security loopholes to gain unauthorized access to critical systems in order to steal sensitive information and cause havoc at airports. With a wide range of tactics at their disposal, from software vulnerabilities and phishing scams to social engineering and brute-force attacks, it's difficult to predict where they might strike next. To prevent such incidents, airports must conduct comprehensive risk assessments that cover all aspects of their security infrastructure, including physical and network security, data protection, and access controls. Regular security audits, penetration testing exercises, and switching to a security operations center are some additional measures that can be taken to identify and address potential weaknesses in the security ecosystem, thereby bolstering its defences against malicious actors.

  • Strengthen the weakest link of the cyber world

In the realm of cyber security, human error is often the weakest link and accounts for a staggering 95% of cyber-attacks. Insider threats, which originate from within an organization, affect over a third of businesses globally each year. The aviation industry's increasing reliance on digital systems and the human factor make it a prime target for cyber-attacks. The 2019 incident at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is a case in point where an insider exploited his knowledge of airport systems to commandeer an airplane and crash it. This incident underscores the crucial need for robust cyber security policies and procedures to prevent insider threats and protect the aviation industry from potential cyber-attacks.

Proper training and awareness, including educating employees about prevalent cyber threats, like social engineering and ransomware, is critical in preventing these attacks. To control human-based errors, a robust security framework is necessary, such as implementing personal background checks and limiting access to sensitive information. Privileged Access Management (PAM) is another security solution that can be embedded to secure and monitor access to critical assets within an airport. Policies like least privilege can ensure that a user or entity should have access to specific data, resources, and applications only.

  • Data Encryption

Airports are a hub of data, accumulating copious amounts of information ranging from passenger details, airline schedules, concession sales, immigration data, law enforcement activity, and payment information. This data is precious and necessitates top-level protection to ensure that even in the event of a network breach, it remains impervious. In this regard, airports can employ the use of data encryption to safeguard their information. For instance, when passengers book flights or check-in, their payment and personal information is transmitted over the internet to the airport's server. To guarantee that this information remains secure, airports can use encryption algorithms like TLS (Transport Layer Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) during transmission. Similarly, the airport can also safeguard the information stored in its databases and systems through encryption software such as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) or RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman).

  • Protecting OT/IoT networks is critical

The demand for OT/IoT solutions is expected to skyrocket due to the increased adoption of technologies such as location tracking, facial recognition, remote working, supply chain logistics, video-centric applications, and the deployment of 5G networks. In the aviation industry, these solutions are being increasingly implemented to bring about numerous benefits. For example, JetBlue has successfully integrated Automaton and IoT to create an "auto check-in" feature that enables passengers to receive their tickets and seat assignments 24 hours before their flight based on their booking patterns and behavior. However, it is essential to ensure that these systems are secure from cyber-attacks, which can cause catastrophic disruptions to airport operations, financial losses, safety hazards, and other adverse consequences that could render the airport powerless.

  • Swift Incident Response capabilities must be developed

To effectively respond to any cyber-attack, it is crucial to have a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the necessary steps, such as whom to contact, what actions to take, and how to restore operations. This plan should include round- the-clock monitoring, regular backup of sensitive data, and quick threat identification protocols that cover various scenarios such as mechanical failures, unauthorized access to restricted areas, fire and smoke incidents, bomb threats, and extreme weather conditions. In addition, the plan should incorporate rapid investigation procedures, a communication plan, and the deployment of the latest technologies like AI and ML, which can help identify vulnerabilities and potential threats in systems. Overall, a robust incident response plan is critical to ensuring the security and safety of aviation operations in the face of cyber-attacks.

How is Gramax Cybersec contributing to the cyber security of airports?

Gramax Cybersec offers comprehensive services to ensure the cyber as well as physical security of airports, providing a team of highly skilled professionals, cutting-edge techno- security solutions, and specialized services. With expertise in identifying and addressing potential threats to IT infrastructures, critical applications, and cloud environments, Gramax is well-equipped to handle all aspects of cyber-physical security. They have an in-depth understanding of these potential risks, which makes them a trusted partner in safeguarding airport systems and data.

Gramax Cybersec has unique selling points that set them apart from other cybersecurity providers. Their first-hand experience in securing critical infrastructure environments and purpose-built security approaches allow them to offer effective and innovative cybersecurity solutions to airports. Additionally, their affiliation with GMR, a leading presence across airports, power, and urban infrastructure sectors, provides them with a wealth of resources and expertise to draw upon in their efforts to safeguard airport systems and data.