Nav­i­gat­ing the Cyber Skies
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Nav­i­gat­ing the Cyber Skies

Next-Gen­er­a­tion Strate­gies for Se­cur­ing the Avi­a­tion In­dus­try

In today's hyper-con­nected world, the realm of avi­a­tion ex­tends far be­yond the phys­i­cal air­craft and con­trol tow­ers; it en­com­passes a vast and com­plex dig­i­tal ecosys­tem.

This dig­i­tal land­scape brings bound­less po­ten­tial for op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, but it also pre­sents a myr­iad of cy­ber­se­cu­rity chal­lenges that must be ad­dressed with ur­gency and ex­per­tise.

Ris­ing Cyber Risks for the Air Trans­porta­tion In­dus­try

The rise in cy­ber­at­tacks on air trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture can be at­trib­uted to a myr­iad of evolv­ing fac­tors:

 

  • Geopo­lit­i­cal Ten­sions: The height­ened cy­ber­at­tacks post the Russ­ian- Ukraine war ex­em­pli­fies the cyber im­pli­ca­tions of geopo­lit­i­cal un­rest.
     
  • COVID-19 Im­pact: The pan­demic-in­duced shift to­wards dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies has in­ad­ver­tently in­creased the in­dus­try's cyber vul­ner­a­bil­ity.
     
  • IoT and OT Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties: The adop­tion of IoT and OT tech­nolo­gies has in­tro­duced new sys­tem vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.
     
  • Un­der­in­vest­ment in Cy­ber­se­cu­rity: Fol­low­ing the down­turn in the air trans­porta­tion in­dus­try, there has been sig­nif­i­cant un­der­in­vest­ment re­sult­ing in in­suf­fi­cient re­sources al­lo­cated to­wards cy­ber­se­cu­rity, leav­ing their sys­tems vul­ner­a­ble.
     
  • Dig­i­tal­iza­tion and In­ter­de­pen­den­cies: As sup­ply chains be­come more dig­i­tal and in­ter­con­nected, the cyber risk land­scape broad­ens.
     
  • Re­mote Work: The surge in re­mote work­ing has in­creased po­ten­tial entry points for cyber threats.
     
  • Ad­vanced Cyber Threats: The in­creas­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion of threats like ran­somware and phish­ing at­tacks adds to the chal­lenge.
     

The avi­a­tion sec­tor is unique, both in its cru­cial so­ci­etal role and its in­ter­sect­ing lay­ers of com­plex­ity. On one hand, there's an in­tri­cate, global IT in­fra­struc­ture sup­port­ing tasks like tick­et­ing, lo­gis­tics, cus­tomer ser­vice, and more. On the other, there's a di­verse array of OT sys­tems, which han­dle mis­sion-crit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties such as air traf­fic con­trol, nav­i­ga­tion, and air­craft sys­tems. Both are vital, both are dif­fer­ent, and both are po­ten­tial tar­gets for cyber threats.

Cyber Se­cu­rity Strate­gies are Evolv­ing

Re­cently, a num­ber note­wor­thy strate­gies, poli­cies and guide­lines have been pub­lished seek­ing to ad­dress this in­creas­ing risk to the air trans­porta­tion in­dus­try, which have in­cluded the fol­low­ing:

 

In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ICAO)- Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Pol­icy Guid­ance

United States - TSA Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Re­quire­ments

Eu­ro­pean Union - EU Avi­a­tion Safety Agency Reg­u­la­tions

United King­dom - Avi­a­tion Cyber Se­cu­rity Strat­egy

World Eco­nomic Forum (WEF) - Avi­a­tion Sec­tor Calls for Uni­fied Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Prac­tices to Mit­i­gate Grow­ing Risks

 

A com­mon theme among these poli­cies and strate­gies is the im­por­tance of De­fense in Depth, which is a lay­ered ap­proach to cy­ber­se­cu­rity that com­bines mul­ti­ple se­cu­rity con­trols to pro­tect against dif­fer­ent types of threats. De­fense in depth helps to pre­vent, de­tect and re­spond to cy­ber­at­tacks, as well as to re­cover from them.

Tra­di­tional SOCs vs Next-Gen­er­a­tion SOCs

An­other com­mon theme which is part of the De­fense in Depth strat­egy is the help­ful role of se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions cen­ters (SOCs), which are ded­i­cated teams or units that mon­i­tor, an­a­lyze and re­spond to cyber in­ci­dents af­fect­ing avi­a­tion sys­tems. SOCs pro­vide con­tin­u­ous vis­i­bil­ity, sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and in­ci­dent man­age­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties for avi­a­tion en­ti­ties. SOCs can be in­ter­nal or out­sourced to spe­cial­ized ser­vice providers, such as MSSPs (man­aged se­cu­rity ser­vice providers).
 

This is where MSSPs (man­aged se­cu­rity ser­vice providers) can help. MSSPs are spe­cial­ized com­pa­nies that pro­vide out­sourced cy­ber­se­cu­rity ser­vices to clients, such as mon­i­tor­ing, de­tec­tion, re­sponse, re­cov­ery and re­port­ing. By part­ner­ing with MSSPs, avi­a­tion en­ti­ties can ben­e­fit from:

  • Ac­cess to ad­vanced cy­ber­se­cu­rity tools and tech­nolo­gies
     
  • Ex­per­tise and guid­ance from qual­i­fied cy­ber­se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als
     
  • Re­duced op­er­a­tional costs and risks
     
  • En­hanced com­pli­ance with reg­u­la­tory and in­dus­try stan­dards
     
  • Im­proved rep­u­ta­tion and trust
     

How­ever, not all MSSPs are the same as there is a quite sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween tra­di­tional SOCs and those set up to be the Next Gen­er­a­tion of SOCs that are able to face the new and fu­ture threats. We at Sen­tho­rus pride our­selves in being a Next Gen­er­a­tion SOC and these are the dif­fer­ences we fre­quently find when we take on new cus­tomers that have been work­ing with tra­di­tional SOCs:

FeaturesTraditional SOCSenthorus Next-Generation SOC
Reactive Vs ProactiveMostly reactive measures. Responds to security incidents as they occur.Emphasizes proactive measures. Actively hunts for threats and uses predictive analytics to prevent incidents.
Quality of ExpertsSOC analysts are not pre-screened for their capabilities and there is high turnover making the quality of expertise very inconsistent over time.Our SOC Analysts go through a rigorous process of pre-employment testing and screening to make sure they meet our high standards. Once onboard they are constantly tested and trained to be on the cutting edge.
TechnologyPrimarily uses established security technologies, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.Incorporates advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, for more effective threat detection and response.
Onboarding SpeedThe time to onboarding is usually between 4 to 6 monthsSenthorus provides express onboarding services that go from 6 to 18 weeks
IT/OT IntegrationUsually treat IT and OT security as separate domains and are not correlated in the backend.Provides integrated IT/OT security services, correlating events across networks and domains for a comprehensive security posture.
Specialized OT ServicesMay not offer services tailored specifically to the unique requirements of OT security.Offers services specifically designed to address the unique challenges and needs of OT environments.
Threat IntelligenceBasic threat intelligence capabilities.Advanced threat intelligence capabilities, including gathering and analyzing information on emerging threats.
Control over your DataTraditional SOCs will require you to send them your terabytes of logs which is not only expensive but creates and additional risk to your organization and creates an additional restriction for you to change SOC providers in the future (you must recover your data)Your organization’s logs remain in your environment, which reduces the cost of transferring data, the risk to your data (including compliance), and leaves you free to change to other SOC providers in the future if you are not satisfied.
Compliance and GovernanceStandard and uncertain compliance services that cannot be customized to your needs. Very little depth in their understanding of evolving compliance needs.Offers services specifically designed to meet regulatory requirements in IT and OT environments, including specialized audits and assessments, data sovereignty, privacy and data residency requirements.

 

Transparency

Traditional SOC services only provide you with a limited view of what is going on. Customers are left wondering what is really going on or having to ask questions.You see what our SOC Analysts see. Senthorus is fully transparent with its customers by providing access to the same console our SOC Analysts use.

Fac­ing the Pre­sent Threats and the Fu­ture

With the above in mind, mov­ing for­ward, the avi­a­tion in­dus­try should face the pre­sent threats and those of the fu­ture adopt­ing a num­ber of key ap­proaches:

 

1. Rec­og­nize the Com­plex­ity: The avi­a­tion in­dus­try's cy­ber­se­cu­rity chal­lenges are mul­ti­fac­eted and con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing, un­der­lined by geopo­lit­i­cal in­flu­ences, the rise of re­mote work, in­creas­ing dig­i­tal­iza­tion, and so­phis­ti­cated cyber threats. It's cru­cial for all stake­hold­ers to ac­knowl­edge this com­plex­ity and en­sure they're not un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the risk or over­sim­pli­fy­ing the so­lu­tions.

2. In­vest in Ad­vanced Cy­ber­se­cu­rity: The in­creased re­liance on dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness of sup­ply chains in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try ne­ces­si­tates an in­vest­ment in ad­vanced cy­ber­se­cu­rity mea­sures. Or­ga­ni­za­tions must adapt quickly to changes in the threat land­scape and stay a step ahead of the at­tack­ers.

3. Lever­age Next-Gen­er­a­tion SOCs: Next-Gen­er­a­tion SOCs, such as the one pro­vided by Sen­tho­rus, offer a more proac­tive and com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to cy­ber­se­cu­rity. They em­ploy ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies, pro­vide spe­cial­ized OT ser­vices, and pri­or­i­tize trans­parency and quick on­board­ing, which are vital in the fast-paced avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

4. En­cour­age Col­lab­o­ra­tion and In­for­ma­tion Shar­ing: The strate­gies and poli­cies pub­lished by var­i­ous global en­ti­ties demon­strate the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in coun­ter­ing cyber threats. Shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about threats, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, and best prac­tices can sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance the in­dus­try's over­all cy­ber­se­cu­rity pos­ture.

5. Em­power Through Trans­parency: One of the key ad­van­tages of Next-Gen­er­a­tion SOCs like Sen­tho­rus is trans­parency. Pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with the same level of vis­i­bil­ity as SOC an­a­lysts fos­ters trust and en­ables them to make in­formed de­ci­sions about their cy­ber­se­cu­rity strate­gies.

 

The avi­a­tion in­dus­try's cy­ber­se­cu­rity jour­ney is a chal­leng­ing yet cru­cial one. Nav­i­gat­ing through it re­quires con­stant vig­i­lance, ad­vanced tools and tech­niques, and an in­dus­try-wide com­mit­ment to shar­ing knowl­edge and best prac­tices. With these strate­gies in place, we can look for­ward to a more se­cure fu­ture in the avi­a­tion sec­tor.

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Juan AVELLAN

Senthorus General Manager

Meet Juan AVELLAN, our General Manager at Senthorus. Contact Juan to discuss how he can help propel your cybersecurity initiatives forward.