We must collaborate to tackle the aviation cyber-threat

We must collaborate to tackle the aviation cyber-threat

Q3 2019
We must collaborate to tackle the aviation cyber-threat

To help tackle the cyber-threat facing air transport, SITA is facilitating collaboration across the community, aiming to educate, inform and protect airline and airport customers.

Collaboration is vital in tackling the cyber-threat facing the global air transport community, which poses many challenges for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs). Along with emerging trends, priorities and opinions among aviation business leaders, SITA’s ‘Air Transport Cybersecurity Insights 2018’ survey (see our last issue) highlighted many of the challenges faced.

The survey found that the rising risk is well-acknowledged, but cybersecurity teams are still lacking empowerment and positioning at c-level. Just 31% of the responding organizations said they had a dedicated CISO. Lack of resources affected 78% of organizations too.

The cyber-threat is real

Cyber-threat concept illustrationBut the threat is clear and it’s certainly focusing industry attention. SITA's Insights survey showed that cybersecurity is high on the agendas of airline and airport CIOs. Some 89% of airlines revealed a 'major program,' up from 71% the year before; while 95% of airports confirmed cybersecurity as a priority area.

Nevertheless, the reality of the cyber-threat to aviation is brought home by numerous high-profile incidents at airlines or airports in recent times. SITA currently sees three to five cases per month for both airports and airlines.

Air transport seen as critical

Concerned about cyber-threats, many governments across the world are putting into place new rules and regulations to address cyber-risks to their ‘Critical National Infrastructure’. The air transport industry is seen as very much a part of this critical infrastructure.

Across the Asia Pacific, Europe and the US, there are various approaches to key regulations and initiatives related to Critical National Infrastructure and cybersecurity. Along with that are the increasing initiatives of industry organizations, including ACI World and IATA, as well as the membership-based organization Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center (A-ISAC).

A stakeholder-wide response

So it is widely recognized that cyber-threats in air transport are a new reality. Not only that, it must be acknowledged that the challenges faced by air transport organizations are multi-faceted – including organizational, technical, supply chain and compliance.

For any CISO, this community-wide and multi-faceted nature of the threat demands a response that embraces all stakeholders, including suppliers, partners, authorities and more. It must also address all parts of the incident lifecycle, from prevention and protection, to detection and response.

SITA's response

In addition to the SITA Insights surveys, SITA’s response includes the annual SITA Aviation Cybersecurity Symposium. The third symposium, in November 2018, brought together IT and cybersecurity experts from across air transport to chart the way forward for the community.

As an important community response for aviation, the next symposium will take place on 2-3 October 2019 (see ‘News in brief’). Another major response is SITA’s ‘Community Cyber Threat Center.' Launched in 2017, the center is a complimentary service open to cybersecurity professionals at SITA member organizations (see box).

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SITA's Community Cyber Threat Center

As a collaborative initiative providing a security information sharing service, the SITA Community Cyber Threat Center (CCTC) is run specifically for cybersecurity professionals throughout SITA member organizations. During 2018, it reached 29 active members.

The center supports a community-wide response by promoting the proactive and timely exchange of contextualized, actionable cyber threat information between members. Participating organizations can also choose to receive automated threat intelligence feeds, which relate to malicious activity observed within air transport and other industries.

This machine-driven sharing of intelligence indicators provides valuable information to help airlines and airports identify potential threats to their systems, enabling a timely response when needed.

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