Are The Skies Now at Risk of Hackers?

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airline hackers February 2016

Air travellers are used to the added security precautions taken by airlines since the early 2000s.  And, quite simply, they’re happy to incur the slight inconvenience if it means their flights are that much safer.  However, as hackers become one of the biggest security threats in the digital age, could air travellers’ risk now exist in the electronic realm?

Judging by the fact that the United States alone saw 75 cyber-attacks on its airports in 2014, it would appear that there is room for concern.  Furthermore, cyber-attacks grow increasingly sophisticated with each passing year, which means the number of attack on airports could well rise in 2016.

Why Would Air Travellers Be at Risk?

Hackers are probably less concerned with attacking individual travellers as they are with attacking airlines.  This is because airlines are important to national revenue.  And, since many cyber-attacks at the national level are concerned with destabilising a country’s economy, attacking an airline could certainly destabilise business continuity in the country and its economy along with it.

Hackers are thus more likely to target airlines’ confidential information.  News of this could greatly harm an airline’s reputation and thus its profits, but any crucial information could also be sold to competitors for personal gain on the part of the hacker.

If individual travellers are targeted, it will most likely be to expose personal information with a view to damaging the airline’s reputation.  That being said, the passenger would likely have to be high-profile for this attack to work.

Is the Threat Real?

The increase in the cyber-security market in recent years proves that the threat of hackers is a real one.  Research shows that cyber-attacks on companies increased 42 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Terror organisations have realised that it is easier to target other nations online than to orchestrate large-scale terror attacks in the real world.

But, regardless of the motives for any cyber-attack, the fact remains that airlines are vulnerable to hackers as things stand.  The scale of interconnectivity means that network weaknesses are easier to identify – a fact that hackers exploit.

Going forward, cyber-security should become just as important to air travel as physical security is now.  This may require a collaboration between military and civilian organisations, but it is what is necessary to prevent any major economic upsets at the national level in the future.

Image credit: http://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/86603-myth-vs-reality-can-hackers-really-control-airplanes  

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