Passengers, airlines and aeronautical authorities are worried by Cyber threats on aviation systems and infrastructure.
Experts warn that delay by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to take precautionary strategies portends danger for the sector, Correspondent KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR reports.
Threats to air safety across national borders are becoming worrisome for aeronautical authorities.
Nigeria and its air transport sector are not insulated from the threats to air travel—no thanks to the use of in- flight communication systems on board aircraft to either distrupt a flight or create confusion.
Apart from the aircraft avionics that could be remotely infiltrated by cyber attackers using on board in-flight wifi communication equipment, airlines reservation and check in facilities could be hacked into by cyber attackers to access digital information.
According to Ifeanyi Ogochukwu, Chief Technology Strategist, Debbie Mishael Consulting, the industry may be at risk without appropriate cyber security containment measures.
He warned that the evolving threat could extend to the country, if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) fails to drive efforts to combat threats related to cyber security.
He said while Nigeria is still grasping with physical security issues, the threat to landscape had shifted from the physical plane to cyberspace.
He added: “But then any disruption of the aviation domain may create catastrophic consequences which include loss of lives, destruction of aviation infrastructure, revenue loss, shut down of businesses, loss of jobs and serious emotional and psychological trauma among others.
“Aviation is one of the most complex and integrated systems of information and communications technology (ICT) in the world, the global aviation system a highly technology driven environment is a potential target for a large-scale cyber-attack.
“The industry keeps expanding, changing, and becoming increasingly connected due to the continual and rapid integration of new technologies. As technologies rapidly evolve in a frenetic pace, however, so do our adversaries and their threats.
“The aviation industry, therefore, may be at risk without appropriate cybersecurity measures put in place for this evolving threat. It is imperative therefore that the industry maintain the highest levels of confidence in aviation.”
He urged the relevant agencies to put in place a two-pronged containment strategy on the physical and digital domain to deal with cyber-attacks.
Ogochukwu said the strategy should involve all stakeholders.
“So, in effect, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the regulator should be driver or enabler of this industry-based stakeholder approach to dealing with cyber threats.
“Other agencies, including Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology(NCAT), airlines and aviation servicing companies should be involved in this industry wide approach,” he said.
NCAA’s spokesman, Sam Adurogboye declined comments on the issue. But, an official of NCAA, who pleaded not to named, said efforts were being made to address issues that might arise from cyber attacks.
He said: ”As experts in aviation security, the threat of cyber security is becoming increasingly of great concern as airlines payment system could be hacked, so we have to educate airlines, ground handling companies, aviation services providers to protect their systems from hacking.”
Investigation revealed that airline payment platforms, automated airport operations management systems are vulnerable to attack by hackers.
As attack on civil aviation moves from land and airside to cyberspace, a global coalition is building on how to mitigate the effects of cyber security to air travel.
Global aviation regulator International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has designed new measures to mitigate the effects of cyber attack on air travel.
Last year, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the ICAO signed a cyber security agreement.
“Our common goal in developing this agreement is to work more effectively together to establish and promote a robust cyber security culture and strategy for the benefit of all actors in our industry,”said Raymond Benjamin, an ICAO expert on cyber security.
He said: “As technologies rapidly evolve and become more readily accessible to all, cyber threats cannot be ignored.
‘’This is an important new area of aviation security concern and our global community will ensure that it is met with a strong level of commitment and response.”
Last year, the European Union (EU) urged the European Airspace Safety Agency (EASA) to launch a common strategy to fight cyber threats.