What Operators Should Do To Protect Themselves | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


  • Business aviation is facing increasing cybersecurity threats.
  • Cyber criminals are targeting business travelers to gain unauthorized access to confidential business data.
  • Education and training are key in addressing vulnerabilities in cybersecurity, with business aviation operators needing to prioritize educating staff, suppliers, and passengers.

Phishing scams, data breaches, targeted route network disruptions, and the theft of frequent flyer miles have become nearly everyday cybersecurity challenges that the aviation industry is grappling with. In fact, cyberattacks in the aviation sector surged by 24% worldwide during the first half of 2023. Simple Flying recently had the opportunity to discuss this subject with Satcom Direct, a global company specializing in satellite communications and connectivity solutions.

Cyber threats to business aviation

Similar to commercial aviation, business aviation also contends with cybersecurity threats. The business aviation sector is undergoing increasing digitization, and disruptions in private aviation systems can and do have serious impacts. A notable trend among cyber criminals targeting business travelers involves gaining unauthorized access to confidential business data.

The increasing demand for in-flight cabin network connectivity and the continuous dependence on data for productivity improvement and entertainment have resulted in a significant increase in data transmission. As this data transmission surges and aircraft connectivity expands, a safety challenge arises.

It is crucial to note that even when in the air, aircraft are not immune to cybersecurity threats originating from the ground. For instance, providing unsecured WiFi to both flight crew and passengers can simplify this type of hacking because hackers can establish connections more easily.

Photo: Satcom Direct

Josh Wheeler, Senior Director of Entry into Service at Satcom Direct, said that the human factor is one of the most significant elements that exposes business aviation operators to these threats.

“If you can see the internet, it can see you, unless cybersecurity protocols are in place. Human factors are a key threat. Users don’t want to memorize aircraft WiFi passwords or have them changed regularly. MROs may not know to change the router password from its default status.”

Wheeler adds that methods used by hackers are becoming “increasingly sophisticated,” and they range from “social engineering attacks to theft of passwords and credentials to spam, malware, ransomware, and more.”

Education is key

Wheeler pointed out that cybersecurity is frequently viewed as an abstract concept despite elements such as physical security, data security, monitoring, and risk management.

To effectively address any vulnerabilities related to cyber security, Wheeler suggested that business aviation operators should prioritize educating their staff, suppliers, and passengers.

“Operators need to explore all the options. There is no one-size-fits-all, and the operator must trust the connectivity provider to tailor the security system according to their needs. Business aviation operates via an extensive supply chain network, and as such, airports, FBOs, trip planners, fuel management systems, and caterers should all be vetted for cybersecurity protocols.”

Monitoring cyber security threats in aviation

Photo: Satcom Direct

Wheeler suggested that to tackle cybersecurity vulnerabilities, business aviation operators should initially consider addressing these five key questions:

  • Is there a cyber protocol in place?
  • Are the company’s hardware and software updated with patches, security updates, and firmware updates?
  • Is the onboard wireless network encrypted?
  • Are passwords regularly updated?
  • Are passengers allowed to bring non-corporate/non-qualified digital devices aboard the plane?

Another approach for business aviation operators to address these threats and educate their personnel about cybersecurity is through training courses. Several companies, including Satcom Direct, offer specialized cyber awareness courses tailored for aviation IT professionals, crew members, and passengers in the business aviation sector.

Operators can employ specialized encryption services tailored for business aviation, which actively monitor and address cybersecurity threats. These services offer proactive threat monitoring by observing live flight data behavior.

Additionally, there are infrastructure solutions that establish secure, accelerated tunnels for encrypted, anonymized data transmission between the aircraft and ground. Also, there are methods to transform the aircraft cabin into a secure corporate workspace, effectively making the aircraft as secure as an office, as per Wheeler’s insights.


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National Cyber Security