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When the cyber threat follows us through airport security

Read the full article in Danish.

It's quite easy for hackers to gain access to your computer or phone through large public wifi networks. So Stefan Knapp’s advice is: stay on 4G and drop the wireless.

With an average of 1,000 attacks per month on aviation systems, the world’s airports are a favorite target for cyber terrorism. And you're one of the biggest reasons why it's happening.

The risk of attacks that could endanger the aviation safety is increasing as airports around the world become smarter and more connected. That’s one of the conclusions of a report from PA Consulting, which has carried out a thorough analysis of four international airports and their ability to cope with cyber threats.

The use of technology at airports has risen dramatically in recent years. This applies both on the customer side and the operational side. For example the control tower in Örnsköldsvik airport in Sweden has been remotely controlled since 2015 – with operations directed by a control tower in Sundsvall Airport, 145 km away. And individual aircraft are increasingly getting their approval to move from a data link. This increases the risk of cyber terrorists sending out false approvals and creating massive traffic jams.

Last year, Latin American LATAM Airlines and Boryspil Airport in Kiev were hit by WannaCry ransomware, so it's already happening and it's not just a fantasy.

On the customer side, significant developments have also taken place. We require and expect  wi-fi to be available. But we still do not fully understand the risk of being online and how easy it is for other people to gain access to our phone or computer. There is currently an advertisement which shows grandmothers learning to hack their grandchild's computer with a few simple commands. If they can learn, how far can experienced cybercriminals go?

The financial sector is currently trying to fine-tune technology that can verify customers' identity and address potential risks such as fraud. Airports could learn from that, because in airports it is often possible to connect to wi-fi anonymously. Maybe they could combine the issuing of a boarding card with a wi-fi account, which the passenger can freely use? That would reduce the number of fake accounts and increase the potential control. It could even make customer experience at the airport more personalised.

However, the short-term solution is this: use your 3G / 4G data connection when you are at the airport. Take personal responsibility for safety - and don’t entrust it to the airport.

Overcome the silent threat

Download the report



Contact the author

Contact the aviation cyber security team


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