Flying High - Aviation Cybersecurity Considerations 

Published on
July 31, 2023
Hailey Carlson

Flying High - Aviation Cybersecurity Considerations 

In 1903, the Wright Brothers changed the world with the creation of the first powered flight of their plane, “Wright Flyer.” Since then, the aviation industry has quite literally taken off and changed drastically. Many of us often take for granted how easily we can travel across the country or around the globe thanks to the invention of the airplane. 

Much has changed, not only for this industry, but in the world in general. There are now more, unique considerations that have to be taken into account within the world of flight. Safety is at the top of everyone’s minds when it comes to flying today, and this not only includes getting to the destination in a safe manner, but also protecting the technological devices on the planes, in the airports, and in the luggage of the travelers that fill these locations - cybersecurity has become more and more necessary when it comes to air travel.

New TSA Requirements 

Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced new cybersecurity directives that all major players in the aviation industry must implement immediately. This updated guidance requires airports and airlines to develop policies which (1) segment cybersecurity networks in order to prevent potential attack from spreading, (2) implement measures which will secure critical systems, (3) create monitoring systems which defend against, detect, and respond to cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, and (4) stay on top of security patches and updates for critical infrastructure crucial to the operating systems and applications. 

In a news release, TSA Administrator, David Pekoske, stated, “Protecting our nation’s transportation system is our highest priority and TSA will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders across all transportation modes to reduce cybersecurity risks and improve cyber resilience to support safe, secure and efficient travel.”

Passenger cybersecurity 

Another element that needs to be considered when it comes to cybersecurity in the aviation industry is passenger cybersecurity. There are 45,000 flights in the US daily, meaning millions of passengers are in and out of airports and airplanes across the country. It is important for these individuals to know how to stay safe while traveling through the skies.

  • WiFi connection security - Both in the airports and on the planes, travelers today have the opportunity to connect their various devices to WiFi connections. While this can be a welcome convenience for many individuals, public WiFi is among the most vulnerable things when it comes to the world of cybersecurity. As opposed to a home network, which is password protected and only used by people you know, a public network can be used by anyone and is not protected by any security measures. Whether you are on the plane or in the airport itself, anyone around you who has malicious intent could steal your data. When possible, try to either use a data plan or set up a separate device as a hotspot which acts as a private network which you can (and should!) password-protect. If neither of these options is available and you need to access the Internet, be sure to avoid typing in passwords, especially for any financial data.
  • Physically protect your tech - Be sure to keep your devices secure and do not let anyone you do not know have access to them. Physically having your devices with you when on the go is one of the most basic ways to ensure they are protected.
  • Password protect devices - In the event that your devices do get taken or misplaced, it can be a very nerve wracking situation; this unfortunate incident would be made even worse if you realized the devices are not password protected. Adding a password to a device is a simple, free step you can take to protect your devices and your personal data even more when traveling. 
  • Be wary of public USB stations - Many airports offer charging stations throughout the terminals for flyers’ convenience. These charging stations can include electrical outlets and USB plug-in spots as well.  As opposed to plugging your phone charger into a traditional outlet, plugging into a USB port has the same effect as plugging your phone into your laptop to charge. While you are getting the same result of a charged phone, the problem is that your phone is sharing data with what it is plugged into and cybercriminals can take advantage of this vulnerability. Travel with the full charger, including the power adapter, in order to avoid having to use a USB station. If you are traveling without your laptop and do not have the wall plug for another device’s charger, plug into your own device to charge as you know you can trust this device - however, as we saw earlier, don’t connect either of them to the public WiFi if you can avoid it.

Image by Freepik.