The Impact of Cyber Awareness

In today’s heightened digital age, many online practices are trending upwards with no clear end in sight. Many such trends are positive, but unfortunately, some are extremely negative and harmful. At the top of the negative digital trends list – and this shouldn’t really come as a surprise – are cyberattacks. 


No one is safe from cyberattacks, which are evolving and becoming more and more sophisticated. Cyberattacks can hurt everyone, from individuals and small companies to large organizations and multi-national corporations. Cybersecurity technology has become very advanced, and is able to thwart many attacks as they occur. But cyberattacks are highly adaptive, and constantly strive to locate and exploit potential weaknesses, no matter how small they are. 


Defining Aviation from a Cybersecurity Perspective

Cyberthreats do not differentiate between industries. That said, some industries are more prone to cyberattacks than others, due to potential disruption levels. One such industry is the aviation industry, which, even prior to the internet age, was targeted by terrorists and malicious entities on multiple levels. 


When it comes to cybersecurity, the aviation industry differs from other industries in several key areas. The first key parameter is human safety. As an industry that transports mass populations across global destinations, a cyberattack can have severe implications and place many lives in immediate danger.  Another key parameter is can be defined as “decentralized IT” across aviation organizations. Many airports, airlines and other aviation-related organizations rely on a fragmented IT structure without a clear operational core. This greatly increases cyber vulnerability.


Yet another key parameter involves the vulnerability of the aviation industry as a whole, due to the effects of COVID-19, which has led to a depletion in important financial resources. As a result, many aviation organizations are reluctant to make long-term investments. According to the World Economic Forum, an underinvestment in cyber resilience capabilities is one of the four key barriers to cyber resilience in aviation.


When IT systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks due to deep structural reasons, cyber resilience can be  strengthened by investing in employee awareness and training. Especially when, as stated by Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of data breaches involved the human element, and 36% involved phishing.


A joint report written by Deloitte and the World Economic Forum explored the issue of aviation cybersecurity from multiple perspectives, while mapping crucial challenges, barriers and recommendations. One of the report’s main conclusions stated that in order to increase cyber resilience while facing current and future digital challenges, the aviation industry must look inwards, towards its operational and cultural practices. On an organizational level, the report’s recommendations include “fostering a culture of cyber resilience” and “integrating cyber resilience into business resilience practices.”  


The Importance of Cybersecurity Awareness 

Cybersecurity experts have been saying it for years: employee behavior is key to keeping organizations safe from cyberattacks. The most harmful attacks start with an innocent looking email, link or website. Employees that have been trained to look out for and identify suspicious digital activities in their email inbox, have a lesser chance of opening the gate to a cyberattack event. This is especially relevant in today’s work climate, where many employees work in transit or from home.


In fact, as most data breaches involve human mistakes, it is safe to say that cyber terrorists are actually counting on human error to help them penetrate the organization. In the aviation industry, which suffers from severe cybersecurity challenges as it is – from IT to resource allocation – employee training is a good place to start.


According to a recent Forbes article, employees with cybersecurity awareness receive tools and information that are relevant to their respective roles, and which help them work online with maximum safety. They do need to process overly technical or IT-oriented data. Rather, they rely on relatively simple information that promotes a better understanding of different cyber threats. Eventually, this information leads to a collective awareness that creates safer behavior across the board – until it becomes a part of the organization’s culture. According to Forbes, robust cybersecurity cultures can help minimize incidents and create more resilient environments. 


The Bottom Line

The aviation industry experiences more cyberattacks with every passing year. In order to increase their cybersecurity resilience, aviation organizations must implement a wide range of decisions that impact IT, policymaking, supply chains, human resources and more. And while these decisions are essential, they also require vast resources and long-term thinking. Starting with employee training is smart; its cost-effective potential, simple implementation and high sustainability make it much easier to achieve all other cybersecurity goals. 




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