Cyber attacks can cost airlines 'millions'


Geneva – Cyber attacks can cost airlines hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and irreparably damage their reputations, according to Carolina Ramirez, global director of security and facilitation at the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

“The threat of cyber security in the aviation industry is evolving,” she said.

“Terrorists are still very conventional in the type of weapons they use. Nevertheless, as 2015 indicated, Iata and its member airlines need to keep vigilant and are working hand in hand to identify the current and upcoming threats, establish contingency plans, emergency responses and counter measures.”

Cyber attacks in the industry can vary from on-board or in-flight interferences affecting on board flight systems, navigation devices and communications to operational disruptions and business disruption (like bookings and check-in).

So far in 2015 at least five airlines and two airport operations have been publicly reported as victims of targeted online attacks, she said.

“Vulnerabilities that exist, especially those unidentified or those that might emerge as the consequence of future IT-based solutions, expose the industry to cyber-related threats and hazards,” said Ramirez.

“The lessons learned and the experiences gained form these events provide an important source of knowledge which can help airlines and their partners in the value chain be better prepared to assess their risks and proactively avoid incidents in the future.”

She said, however, that the best solution is not to wait to learn from a successful cyber attack, but to successfully prevent them.

Iata closely follows and participates in aviation related cyber initiatives and discussions, raising awareness and bolstering cooperation on cyber security issues, including information sharing mechanisms.

“An organisation is only as robust as the weakest link of its network,” cautioned Ramirez.

She called for collaboration and sharing of information coordinated between managements, airports, vendors and airlines.

* Carin Smith is a guest of Iata at its global media event.

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