Airports : The Importance of Cyber Security


With critical infrastructure now becoming a prime target for hackers airports now need to ensure that they have in place a comprehensive cyber risk management program in place.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has estimated that an average of 1000 cyber attacks occur each month on aviation systems which further demonstrates the threat posed to this sector.

Airports are technology dependent sector on which also makes it attractive for a hacker who is likely to have the intention of causing maximum disruption with many facets of an airport to target.

Whilst a number of computer networks may be segregated such as  navigational guidance, immigration and retail outlets there are many areas that could be targeted.

  • The airports core IT infrastructure
  • Self-check-in desks
  • Automated bag drop off systems
  • Smart operated gates
  • Wi-Fi available within the airport lounges

Cyber-Attacks on Airports

We have see cyber-attacks on airports notably Bristol airport in the U.K. and Atlanta airport in the US both of which occurred last year.

The computer systems of Bristol airport were accessed by a phishing attack whereby an employee clicked  on a link which lead to malware infiltrating  their systems. For a period airport staff had to communicate arrival / departures by using a blackboard as the messages boards were inoperable.

The wi-fi of Atlanta airport was taken down as a result of a cyber-attack. Flights had to be cancelled causing passenger delays and significant disruption to the airport services.

The Data Breach Threat

High volumes of data are contained within the computer systems of an airport and it therefore important that this protected. This would typically include :

  • Boarding card details of passengers
  • Car parking details
  • Health and Safety information
  • Details of disabled individuals
  • Employee personal details
  • Salary payment details of employees

With GDPR coming into force last year all organisations are legally required to store and protect data up to certain standards.

The NIS Directive

This came into force last year and sets out minimum standards of cyber security that need to be in place for operators of essential services systems (OES) which will be applicable to the aviation sector.

One of the keys in preventing cyber attacks is the developing of cyber resilience within an airport once potential threat vectors have been identified and solutions are in place to manage potential threats.

Image : Shutterstock

GDPR – Data Protection But Not As We Know It


On the 25th May the General Data Protection Regulations ( GDPR ) comes into force which will change the whole world of how personal data is managed for individuals that live within the EU member states.

The concept behind this is to give people back control of their data which imposes strict data protection obligations on businesses and provides individuals with the right of redress should their data not be managed in accordance with these regulations.

Despite the fact that the UK will be leaving the EU next year, the regulations will apply to UK businesses after which these will then be replaced by the proposed Data Protection Bill that will impose similar data protection regulations.

GDPR is arguably long over due, in the UK we currently have the Data Protection Act 1998, to put this into context at the time that this was implemented , there are analogue television and dial – up internet…. .. The increase in the use of personal data has increased dramatically since then due to the advances in technology and how people interact with the many modes of communication such as social media.

In the UK the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) will monitor and regulate the GDPR. The ICO website provides a guide to businesses explaining their obligations and to help those individuals who have day to day responsibility for data protection within their organisation.

In order to help businesses prepare for for these new regulations the ICO have published “Preparing for the GDPR – 12 Steps to take now

What types of data does this apply to ?

This relates to any information which is personally identifies an individuals and includes the following :-

Names & addresses

Passport Number

National Insurance Number


Biometric data such as fingerprints , iris scanning and voice recognition

The Dangers of Non-Complaince 

The profile of GDPR is gathering moment and no doubt individuals will wish to be aware of the amounts data that is held against their name. With this will bring about situations where individuals request details and these are unavailable due to non-compliance with business being unable to produce the information at all or within the required time limits.

The other issue and the one with the most significant consequences is where a business suffers a data breach as a result of a hacker attack or an perhaps an error or deliberate act by an employee, the details are then disseminated into the public domain or used for ill gotten gains. The ICO has powers to issue fines of up to 4% of  worldwide turnover of a businesses or 20 million Euros whichever is the greater. This is an uplift from GBP500,000 under the current regulations, this therefore represents a significant increase and demonstrates that a serious non-compliance will have severely consequences.

Managing GDPR

It will be essential that the correct processes and procedures are in place and in the event of a data breach it is important that an incident response plan is readily available whether this having been drawn up internally or with the help of a specialist consultancy. The incident response plan will consists of various vendors to help manage the breach such as lawyers and public relations consultants.

A cyber insurance policy provides such resources and is offered by insurers on a 24/7 basis should the policyholder be subject to a data breach.

The management of these new regulations within a businesses is going to be a fundamental focal point going forward with personal at all levels needing to be aware of their day to day obligations in the processing and handling of data.

Image : Shutterstock

Is BYOD an acceptable Cyber Risk?


BYOD know as Bring Your Own Device is a practice whereby businesses permit the use of employees own laptops, notebooks or smartphones in the working environment.

The cyber risk associated with this philosophy is very real and it is vitally important that this is managed within the businesss.

A survey carried out by Information Security last year reported that 1 in 5 businesses around the world suffered a mobile security breach. The survey also identified that the main concern of usage of BYOD’s was data leakage or loss.

Did you know that 35% of employees store their work password on their smartphone (Source : SecureEdge Networks)

BYOD Policy

It is crucial that the business has a clear and robust BYOD policy which should include the following:

1.An acceptable use policy that reflects appropriate guidance and accountability with input from other stakeholders of the business.

2.Management of Social Media as it is likely that there will an an increased use of this.

3.The type of personal data that can be processed on the device.

4. Ensure that a back up plan is in place as mobile devices can fail or be compromised.

5.Reporting of incidents in a prompt fashion in order to comply with company policy and to meet any legal obligations.

The Information Comissoners Office provides guidance notes on BYOD which are a good reference point for businesses.

What are the risks?

The main feature of BYOD is that the user owns, maintains and supports the device. As a result of this the data controller will not have as much control as they would should the device be provided by the business.The main concern is the security of the data and this is monitored over a number of devices.

With the focus on data the business should be aware of the following:-

The type of data held on the device

What application data will be held on

How the data will be transferred and asssessment of any possible leakage.

The type of security that is operated under the device.

The line between personal use and business use.

Can Cyber Insurance help?

It is possible for a cyber insurance to provide coverage for cyber risks arising from BYOD devices within a business. Insurers will ask certain risk management questions in order to assess the risk and if acceptable will include this aspect of coverage under the policy.

Image : Shutterstock

Panama : The Cigar is Still Smouldering…


Up until recently Panama was associated with a canal , hats and cigars… is now known for one of the biggest data breaches ever known – the Panama Papers.

What are the Panama Papers?

These are a leaked set of 11.50 million confidential documents that provide details of approximately 214,000 offshore companies listed by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. This information contained identities of shareholders and directors of these companies and showed the wealth of high profile individuals , including the assets that were hidden from the public. Individuals included past and current heads of states, government officials and celebrities from over 40 countries. Investigations have now determined some of the companies may have been utilized for various illegal purposes.

The Panama Papers far exceeds the previous highest data breach record previously held by Wikileaks by 1500 times.

How did this happen?

An anonymous source know as “John Doe” passed the documents to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung which it is understood commenced at the beginning of 2015. The quantum of data involved was 2.6 terabytes which is a vast amount of data In view of the amount of data involved the newspaper recruited the assistance of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which distributed all the documents so that they could be investigated by various journalists and media organizations around the world. The first documents were published on 3rd April. The ICIJ will issue a full list in May of all the companies involved.

What was the cause of this huge data leak ? 

There are a number of different schools of thought as to whether this was due to an insider or outsider hacker attack , but one thing that is certain is that Mossack Fonseca did appear to have very poor cyber security procedures in place.

This has been evidenced by some of the following cyber security flaws that have since been discovered:-

  • The Outlook Web Access login had been utilized since 2009 with the client login not being updated since 2013
  • The computer systems included a high risk SQL injection vulnerability that allows anyone to remotely execute arbitrary instructions.
  • The main computer system included a version of WordPress that was three months out of date.
  • Configuration of the website was not recognized as best practice.
  • Mossack Fonseca’s e-mails were not encrypted
  • The systems were vulnerable to external scanning and possible exploitation

With the amount of data involved it is believed that it took about one year for the data to arrive at its destination. It is a wonder that no one noticed this amount of data leaving the company ? Interestingly enough very few US citizens were listed in the papers , which may be due to the fact that the US does have different corporate tax structures which negates the need for offshore tax arrangements.   The security flaws at the heart of the Panama papers

Why was Mossack Fonseca targeted ?

Legal firms hold a great deal of data on their clients including copies of personal data , confidential documents and legal transactions which does make them a prominent target for hackers. A high profile legal practice such as Mossack Fonseca involved in the areas that they practiced in therefore represents an ideal victim to a hacker.

With the poor cyber security procedures in place it does perhaps suggest that this data compromise may have come from an insider hacker who knew the computer systems and perhaps an employee with a point  to make or an overarching grudge.

Reputational damage is also a consequence of a breach of this nature , another possible reason for the this attack. which sometimes causes irreversible damage to a firm.

What could have prevented this data breach? 

In the current climate no one business or individual is 100% secure from a cyber security breach but certain procedures seemed to be absent from what would be expected to be standard cyber security risk management procedures:-

  • Prioritising  of cyber security
  • Regular patching of software
  • Updating of software
  • Regular login updating
  • Encryption of all sensitive documents
  • Website security

How Cyber Insurance could have helped ? 

A cyber insurance policy can provide the following coverage.

  1. Data breach costs incurred including notification costs to the appropriate regulatory bodies
  2. Regulatory costs and investigations that may arise as a result of the breach
  3. Post breach costs including investigation and forensics costs incurred to monitor and analyse the data breach which would help identify the cause of the incident.

The proposal for cyber insurance also requires certain minimum security measures to be in place at the onset prior to the policy incepting , the purchase of a cyber insurance policy therefore may have help Mossack Fonseca focus on certain areas of cyber security that may have prevented the hacker to penetrate their computer systems.

From the wider perspective the insurance market is assessing its exposure by gathering data from insurers and reinsurers in order to ascertain the consequences of this loss to the industry. One thing for sure is that insurance coverage would not respond to any illegal activities.

General Data Protection Regulations

Despite being passed the GDPR are not yet in force , but what would have been the ramifications of this on Mossack Fonseca.. ? These rules will apply to entities that carry out business with companies based in the EEC , whether the complicated legal structures put in place by Mossack Fonseca would have implicated by this is difficult to tell , but fines of 4% of annual global turnover or E20,000,000 , which ever is the less would apply if this was the case.

Lessons to be learned 

  • Robust cyber security measures and procedures are paramount to a business armoury in protecting their mere existence.
  • Law firms will be alerted to this data breach and with recent attacks in the US , this sector is clearly currently a target for hackers
  • Cyber Insurance can help improve cyber security and mitigate the effects of a data breach

The biggest data breach ever experienced is still being uncovered, further revelations will no doubt come to light in the coming months… the cigar is still smoudering.