One of the biggest discussions in the aviation industry this past year has centered around cybersecurity. With the aviation ecosystem becoming more connected, the sheer amount of data that passes from system to system opens the door to more vulnerabilities.  As the year comes to an end, we wanted to reflect on how far the industry has come and talk to experts about what needs to happen in the future.

We had the opportunity to talk with Dominic Nessi, who has been a regular contributor for Connected Aviation Today, and Vice President, Aviation ISAC. Nessi also serves as a senior technology advisor and is a leader in the aviation transport industry. We asked Dominic to share his reflections from the year with us. Here is what he had to say:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: The connected aviation ecosystem is quickly evolving. In 2018, what are some of the major milestones that you’ve seen in the industry?

Cybersecurity in Aviation

Dominic Nessi, Vice President, Aviation-ISAC

Dominic Nessi: The movement towards expedited passenger processing, curb-side to airside, is taking center stage for both airports and airlines.  Hassle-free travel is the goal.

CAT Editors: What technologies have made a significant impact this year?

Nessi: In line with the movement towards hassle-free or frictionless travel, technologies such as biometrics and facial recognition are critical elements in the passenger processing initiatives. The industry has moved forward with innovative solutions that incorporate both elements to help move us forward.

CAT Editors: What challenges do we still face?

Nessi: Cybersecurity, privacy, and exchange of data between companies, countries and organizations have been and will continue to be the primary challenge in achieving the goals of passenger friendly environment. The global regulatory environment for the protection of personal information remains inconsistent in coverage and impact.

CAT Editors: If you could sum up 2018 in one phrase, what would you say?

Nessi: 2018 has been a year of “setting the stage for a more secure technology environment.”  We are not there yet, but we are making progress towards this goal.  

CAT Editors: We can’t ask you about 2018 without also asking about your future predictions for 2019. With the New Year around the corner, what technologies and solutions do you believe will make a significant impact on the connected aviation ecosystem in 2019?

Nessi: The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) will become a breeding ground for both innovation and cybersecurity woes.  AI initiatives, led by Google and Amazon and other major AI players, will begin to make inroads into traditional ticketing, trip planning, and travel related purchasing, presently the realm of airlines, travel agencies and concessionaires.  IoT initiatives will provide greater convenience for passengers and management improvements for airports and airlines.

Unfortunately, in both cases, the availability of the cybersecurity mechanisms needed to protect these innovations will lag far behind.  The potential for the creation of more powerful, stealthy attacks using a variety of AI tools that we can’t even imagine at this time, coupled with the ability to be launched from exponentially more (IoT) nodes than ever before will dwarf the impact of even the largest data breaches we are seeing today.

CAT Editors: Is there expected legislation, regulation, or guidelines in place that will help propel the industry along?

Nessi: The United States will need to catch-up to the European Union in terms of privacy. Unfortunately, global cooperation in addressing serious cybersecurity issues will lag as nation-states themselves are engaging in cyber espionage and attacks.

That said, the aviation transport industry (ATI) will need to establish its own cybersecurity initiatives to fill the regulatory vacuum. The advantage is that working together, the ATI can establish best practices, frameworks and guidance that will fit the industry’s needs better than having governments attempt to create generalized requirements which cover a variety of industries.

CAT Editors: Any advice for how industry can collaborate with operators and government to ensure that advances are made?

Nessi: Airports, airlines, government agencies, and trade organizations will need to work collaboratively to form partnerships and develop a common set of goals and objectives to meet the growing cybersecurity challenge.  All parties will need to commit resources, both capital and human, up-front to confront these issues.  And, they will need to have the foresight to understand that prevention today is far less costly than the cost of mitigation and restoration after a major incident occurs in the future.     

CAT Editors: If 2018 was the year of “setting the stage for a more secure technology environment,” what do you predict for 2019?

Nessi: My prediction is that 2019 will be the year of moving forward on cybersecurity on an industry-wide basis.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.