Pandemic Offers Opportunity to Improve Aviation Cybersecurity

a man on a tablet in front of an airplane
The more dependent the aviation industry becomes on computerization, the more susceptible it is to cyber threats. The current global slowdown, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, though, may offer an opportunity to address those vulnerabilities.

In a recent edition of Aviation Week, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Associate Provost for Research Remzi Seker addressed the proliferation of threats to aviation cybersecurity due to accelerating computerization and connectivity. However, the global “pause” created by the Covid-19 pandemic has also created an opportunity for industry to ramp up cybersafety initiatives during the slowdown, according to Seker.

More affordable computing allows a shift from hardware to software, and advancements in networking accelerate connectivity. These new possibilities, though, also create new vulnerabilities for aircraft. Certification is a major safety and reliability challenge.

The key to cybersafety is to mitigate threats – from the supply chain through maintenance and operation – before they materialize. Cybersafety, Seker said, requires a different perspective than traditional IT cybersecurity because of the need for safety certification, which relies on guaranteeing a system’s behavior, or determinism.

“This unique characteristic of aviation cybersafety means that solutions widely used across traditional computing systems may pose serious certification challenges,” he said. “Imagine rolling out security patches for every avionics component on a commercial aircraft.”

The role of academic institutions, according to Seker, is to engineer high-assurance systems that will be updated with minimal impact on certification. Educators can also support industry by providing degree programs, training and certification programs that draw on an understanding of aviation and the evolving threat environment. At Embry-Riddle, faculty researchers contribute expertise to cyberdefense and preparedness efforts through working on innovative solutions and byserving on national and international committees. Embry-Riddle also organizes the annual Aero-Cybersecurity Symposium to bring researchers and experts from industry, government and military to discuss the challenges and identify ways to address them.

Read the full editorial in Aviation Week.

Posted In: Aviation | Research | Security Intelligence and Safety