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Cyber resilience: airports need to address digital security

By Chris Lynch, PA transport, travel and logistics expert, and Justin Lowe, PA cyber security expert

Digitalisation and the evolving and obscure threat of cyber-attacks are top priority for C-level airport leaders. Digitalisation is a top priority for C-level airport leaders. But amidst a wave of cyber-attacks against organisations around the globe – from schools and hospitals, to the White House itself – and warnings of more to come, airport leaders can ill afford not to act.

Airports have long been a target for those wishing to cause destruction, or worse. Hijacking, protestors, terminal shootings; airports have dealt with it all, and have solid experience, governance and process to handle such events.

However the industry track record of exemplar safety and security capability falls short when it comes to the cyber arena. This doesn’t only refer to highly complex, cloud-based IT system security either. Runway lighting, RTS tower operations, baggage handling equipment – this all can come to a grinding, and expensive, halt in the event of a targeted attack.

PA Consulting Group’s recent assessments of four major international airports demonstrate three key areas of complacency in the industry that must be addressed in order to avoid costly disruption, or worse:

  1. Cyber security must be given the same consideration as physical and personnel security in order to build relevant organisational resilience
  2. Operational technologies (OT) are equally as important as IT systems when considering disruption to each airport’s passengers and operations, and the knock on-effect to international hubs
  3. Aviation lags far behind other industries, and could find opportunities to learn from the steps taken in other sectors focused not just on IT, but who are also reliant on OT, for example nuclear power plants 

It may be a complex task ahead to build cyber resilience within airports and the wider aviation industry. Our upcoming report delves deeper into the trends and recommendations as to how to build resilience and mitigate the impact of attacks, if not pro-actively defend against them. There is certainly work to be done against a backdrop of evolving and growing threats. 

Find out more about our work in Aviation.

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