The global aviation industry is increasingly focusing on cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity . . . has become a major concern,” highlighted International Air Transport Association (Iata) regional VP: Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Ali Albakri at a recent media briefing at OR Tambo International Airport, east of Johannesburg.
“Cybersecurity is so complex,” he pointed out. It involves systems used by airports, air traffic navigation service (air traffic control) providers, airlines, airliners and manufacturers. “Part of the challenge in the aviation industry is the challenge of exchanging [cybersecurity] information. That doesn’t happen today.”
With cyberattacks on companies across all economic sectors, worldwide, happening “every day”, this is not a theoretical concern. “This is a growing threat. A new threat,” he observed. The aviation sector was still trying to get to grips with it. “These things can happen anywhere. They could happen to anyone, any airline.
“Iata continues to work with industry partners [and] cybersecurity experts . . . to bring all parties to the same level in dealing with this,” he assured. The aviation industry is so globally integrated that a cyberattack in one part of the world could affect operators in other parts of the world.
Iata is coordinating with air traffic navigation service providers and aircraft manufacturers to develop a “common cybersecurity toolbox”. There is a need to develop a common cybersecurity framework. “That is where a lot of thinking, a lot of work, is going on.
“These things (cyberattacks) can’t be prevented.” The aim, explained Albakri, is to develop the ways and means of reacting very rapidly to cyberattacks, to shut them down before they can do any damage. “That is the target of the aviation industry as a whole. These attacks keep changing, evolving. This will continue to be a major concern for all [aviation] players.”
In his director-general’s report, presented in early June, Iata CEO Alexandre de Juniac also raised the issue of cybersecurity. “We also partner with industry stakeholders,” he said. “For example, last month (May), we agreed with Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (Aviation ISAC) to work even more closely to strengthen the industry’s cybersecurity. And our members can benefit directly with a new tiered access to Aviation ISAC’s offerings, including real-time threat information.”
The concern with cybersecurity is only part of Iata’s focus on aviation security. “Security is a major concern. It’s end-to-end, really”, covering every aspect of the sector, pointed out Albakri. It ranks second only to safety in Iata’s list of priorities.
“With the Industry Affairs Committee, we have published ‘The Airline Industry in 2035’, which analyses the forces and trends that will impact on our industry’s future development,” highlighted De Juniac. “In the study, data emerges as a key driver. Over the years, Iata has become the custodian of significant amounts of industry data. The Global Aviation Data Management initiative is a good example. We are combining data from many sources into a more valuable safety tool. We are always mindful of legal requirements and security challenges. But there is more that we can do with data.” In November, Iata will hold a Global Aviation Data Symposium.
In his address, he pointed out that he, the Iata management team and the Iata board had developed ten top priorities for the association, which have to be addressed if the organisation is to fulfil its mission. In the order given by De Juniac, these are: safety, security, environment, infrastructure, regulation, innovation, representative membership, commercial discipline, sound financial management, and competitiveness.
He also welcomed 18 new member airlines to the association. As a result, Iata’s members now account for 83% of global air passenger traffic. “I am especially pleased Iata is attracting a wider range of members with very different business models, particularly the so-called low-cost carriers or new model airlines,” he stated. Such airlines now represent some 10% of the association’s membership.