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Aerospace industry facing increased threat of cyber-attacks

The Aerospace industry is being urged to improve defences to tackle a worrying increase in cyber-attacks which target passenger information, navigation systems, airports, manufacturers supply chains and has the potential to disrupt planes in-flight.

 According to data collected by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation – Eurocontrol - 61 percent of the total cyber-attacks reported in 2020 were directed at commercial airlines.

The European Air Traffic Management Computer Emergency Response Team (EATM-CERT) at Eurocontrol reported a 530 percent increase in the number of cyber-attacks between 2019 and 2020.

The risk of  cyber-attacks in the aerospace industry has risen with the increase in digitalisation which has  introduced more connectivity and automation to systems.

Passenger information held in apps which also display digital boarding passes are also at risk from sophisticated attacks with fears hackers could impact wireless and in-flight entertainment systems.

 

In the face of these threats, Cyber insurance is vital for businesses as there have already been significant attacks on the aerospace industry:

 

  • In 2018, Cathay Pacific’s systems were breached via a server connected to the internet and malware was installed to access the data affecting 9.4 million passengers.
  • In 2020 EasyJet revealed hackers had gained access to the email addresses and travel information of about 9 million customers
  • In 2021 Airline technology provider SITA confirmed its servers were breached in a cyberattack, affecting major airlines.

 

There are also concerns that state sponsored cyber-attacks could attempt to collect sensitive aerospace technology information which could have serious implications for both civilian and defence manufacturers.

Cyber criminals use a variety of weapons including ransomware – demanding money to recover stolen information - malware using viruses and also phishing which sends mass amounts of fraudulent emails to unsuspecting users.

In a bid to establish a defence against an ever changing threat, machine learning and artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to negate  or contain cyber- attacks.

Patrick Mana, EATM-CERT Manager at Eurocontrol, said: “The challenge now is to make aviation systems and services progressively more and more cyber-resilient while remaining safe and cost-effective”.

Sami Saydjari, cyber expert and president of the Cyber Defense Agency believes there could be attempts to hold aircraft for ransom and said: “I think it’s coming.”

Cyber cover may be purchased as a stand-alone product or as add-on coverage to traditional lines of business such as commercial property, business interruption or professional indemnity insurance, although more specific Cyber policies are highly encouraged to avoid ambiguity over coverage and secure wider more relevant cover and cyber crisis management support.

W Denis can arrange specialist cyber insurance cover and can offer first class technical advice. Solutions are available for multi-billion turnover businesses, down to small start-ups. To discuss this further with a broker at W Denis, please make arrangements with Daniel Moss at daniel.moss@wdenis.co.uk or on 0044 (0)113 2439812.

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