Please start here. This is huge news. Readers know that we have a significant interest in this subject. We have been concerned with the issue of cyber security as it potentially can impact the air travel process. Air travel is increasingly IT driven. We have seen what IT disruptions at American Airlines and United Airlines brought about last year. Whether these events were cyber related or not.
Any step by the industry to move on securing their systems is to be cheered. The threat no longer has to actually enter the aircraft physically if it can enter digitally.
Clearly even as the industry develops standards, it is important to understand what happens next. First once these standards are published, they become vulnerable. Second, cyber security requires ongoing, continuous improvements. Given the dependence on IT (and this will never decline), CFOs have to simply get used to CIOs always needing more resources. It’s just going to be like that. Big Data is a reality and is one of the juiciest targets.
Protecting the GPS signals as the WSJ story describes is obviously a great and good thing.
But there is another possibly even juicer target. Before we explain this, remember how hackers were able to break into the US Federal Reserve? There have been continuous attempts to hack banks. Last February hackers stole $81m from Bangladesh’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The world’s airlines have a club called The International Airline Transport Association (IATA). This organization performs all sorts of industry tasks. One of the most fundamental is that of clearing house. If you were impressed by the Bangladesh hack at $81m (and nobody has been caught), try this for size: IATA’s clearing house handled $54.3billion in billing transactions in 2015. Hacking IATA’s clearing house would be on any hacker’s Top Ten list.
Coming back to the industry’s heightened cyber security profile. Protecting GPS signals are an excellent start. But there are many other items the industry needs to protect. We hope the committee established becomes a permanent fixture because it has a lot of work to accomplish. Most importantly, we hope the industry can stay ahead of the threats.