New Delhi: The recent hacking of Air India's frequent flyer programme miles has brought to focus the cyber threats to the aviation industry which depends substantially on sharing of information over the Internet.
"Every flight that takes off or lands is the result of working together and information sharing among many different entities such as airlines, airports and air navigation service providers (ANSPs). Yet the very nature of this collaboration also enables potential cyber vulnerabilities ," top cyber security experts have said.
Like Air India, there have been recent cyber attacks on some major airlines, including one in Canada, and a global airlines alliance.
At a recent conference of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), these experts debated the critical issue and reviewed how a harmonised approach could be achieved in meeting these threats by working with governments across the world, as has been the case of decades of government-industindustry cooperation on aviation safety matters.
Alarmed at the growing terrorist threat to aviation, the IATA has also stressed heightened coordination with governments and their agencies across the world for counter- measures and sharing of intelligence and information.
The cyber security specialists who took part in the discussion in Dublin included Maj Gen L R Urrutia-Varhall, Executive Director of the US National Aviation Intelligence Integration Office, Anja Kaspersen, Head of International Security of World Economic Forum, Alan Pellegrini, President and CEO of Thales USA, Matthew Finn MD of cyber firm Augmentiq and FBI's Assistant Legal Attache in UK Kurt Pipal.
These top experts pointed out that the cyber attacks could range from taking over of aircraft-to-ground communications to theft of information like that of credit cards or frequent flyer programmes and document frauds which could financially hit the aviation industry.
Pointing out that an estimated 13 percent of hacking or phishing came from "insiders" in a company, FBI's Pipal asked how many companies have "hacking drills" like the hold fire- drills in their offices.
Asserting that there was "no way you can completely prevent hacking", Maj Gen Urrutia-Varhall and Kaspersen sought preparedness and regular upgrade of cyber security measures and reporting of information by the industry to governments and security agencies.
Pellegrini and Finn suggested the urgency of making of laws to fight these threats, but said on the positive side, "the technology exists to counter them".