The president of the ICAO Council, Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, has welcomed a declaration restating the air transport sector’s commitment and unity toward achieving resilience against cyber attacks.

The “Dubai Declaration” was presented to Aliu at the UN agency’s inaugural Cyber Summit and Exhibition in Dubai. The event was run in partnership with UAE regulator the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

“New and more sophisticated digital technologies and processes are coming online daily, it seems, impacting as they do our network and its relationships with shippers and the traveling public,” Aliu told the summit. “What this means for cyber security and cyber safety stakeholders is that threats are emerging at an ever-increasing rate.”

At ICAO’s Assembly in October 2016, governments signaled their concern about cyber risks and threats.

However, variations persist among states, air navigation service providers, aircraft and airport operators in terms of the cyber mitigation measures being tackled, highlighting the need for improved sector-wide collaboration.

“Some may suggest this points to a role for near-term ICAO provisions to be established,” Aliu said. “However, we are still at too nascent a stage to determine appropriate and practical standards in the Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.”

He also noted that civil aviation should continue to appreciate and reinforce the inherent mitigation capabilities of pilots and air traffic controllers and commented that the sector’s increasing connectivity to external networks, and the use of public communication infrastructure for transmitting data and exchanging information, represented further risks that had to be carefully managed.

“The basic interconnectedness we have all grown accustomed to in our day-to-day digital lives is now also a basic characteristic of on-board and ground-based aviation systems.

“This makes them potentially vulnerable to outside cyber attack, and explains why the logical or physical segregation of safety critical systems is a crucial first step for global aviation.”

The conclusions and Dubai Declaration emerging from the ICAO/UAE Summit will help to establish near-term prioritization of suitable back-up systems and procedures, cyber-resilience steps and security overlays, the more intensive collaboration needed and clarity on roles and responsibilities.

Much of this strategic planning and guidance will be contained in ICAO’s new Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP), the development of which is being fast-tracked after calls for its accelerated development by nations.

GASeP is expected to be launched by the end of 2017.

Alan Dron