Navigating the Cyber Skies: Next-Generation Strategies for Securing the Aviation Industry

by Juan Avellan
General Manager Senthorus

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:



Traditional SOC Senthorus Next-Generation SOC
Reactive Vs Proactive Mostly 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 Experts SOC 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.
Technology Primarily 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 Speed The time to onboarding is usually between 4 to 6 months Senthorus provides express onboarding services that go from 6 to 18 weeks
IT/OT Integration Usually 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 Services May 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 Intelligence Basic threat intelligence capabilities. Advanced threat intelligence capabilities, including gathering and analyzing information on emerging threats.
Control over your Data Traditional 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 Governance Standard 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.


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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