A challenge airports face is keeping the airport safe, whilst also ensuring that this does not compromise the passenger experience. Passengers want thorough security screening that happens both quickly and seamlessly. They want to be able to access quick, quality Wi-Fi, not be intimidated by security, and do not want to pay premium prices for their aviation experience.
Technological advancements bring with them fantastic new ways to enhance the passenger experience and speed up processes, allowing airports to meet passengers’ ever-increasing expectations. However, the more airports rely on technology for their smooth-running, the more cyber threats they potentially expose themselves to. This means, an airport’s security procedures, frameworks and processes need to advance constantly to tackle this increased risk.
Airports often have one common platform which is accessible to multiple stakeholders, including: airlines; telecom providers; security; operations; facilities. This significantly enhances the damage that can be done by a cyber-attack, as, if one is completed successfully, there are many processes at stake. If a security attack is successful, several issues could occur as a result, including longer waiting times for passengers, cancelled flights, jeopardised customer service, financial implications, lost personal data and in serious cases, truly catastrophic events.
Mahmood AlSeddiqi, from Bahrain Airport Company, shared his approach to cybersecurity with International Airport Review and made a number of interesting points on how to minimise risk.
He suggested that airports authorities need to have a cyber security committee to establish policies, offer advice, approve plans, processes, technology, and funding. This committee needs to meet regularly to ensure that appropriate, up-to-date security measures are in place.
It is important for airport authorities to conduct test assessments on their network to highlight any vulnerabilities. Airports must also create a business continuity plan to be activated in the event of an attack. This needs to be practiced to ensure staff are familiarised and trained in different scenarios, confirming they are confident and ready to respond effectively.
Airports need to invest in their people. Along with hiring the right individual for the role, it has been established that educating individuals on this complex matter is not a one-stop-shop. With near constant technological developments, it is an ongoing exercise that needs to be invested to ensure risk is reduced to a minimum. Technology is a brilliant tool that must be taken advantage of, nevertheless, it’s the people that action a response strategy if an attack is underway.
Kevin Gramer, Vice President of Commercial Sales at Digital Barriers, said with regards to security technology: “I think it’s a tool; no one can really replace the human element” and I agree emphatically. Airports need to hire the right people that are trustworthy, knowledgeable, and willing to consistently research, develop and implement a security framework on an international scale with strong attention to detail. They need to be tech-savvy, possess analysis and financial planning skills, and, be confident in emergency situations.
The digital age brings threats, however, if the right people are on board to take a forward thinking and meticulous approach, the risk of a cyber-attack can be mitigated.