Q2 2016

Don’t fear cyber security; promote it!

A Word About Cyber Security | With Dr John McCarthy 

Air travel has long been known to be the safest form of transport. We have an abundance of statistics to prove this. Safety has been cited as a valid reason for choosing air travel for a long time and the industry quite rightly prides itself on its exemplary safety record. Passengers feel reassured by this when travelling by air.

This is not so true of cyber security. As cyber security has entered into mainstream thinking it has often been tainted by glamourous tales of ruthless and clever hackers who have exploited systems for millions of dollars. There is a general belief that all systems can be hacked and nothing is safe from hackers. In a world of absolutes where we take into consideration every possibility then nothing is safe from being hacked. However, if we apply this type of thinking to other areas of our lives we would realise that absolute thinking is not always helpful.

Let’s take the example of the front door on the house where you live. Ask yourself ‘can that door be broken and your house entered in to?’ The answer is an obvious yes. We put a door on our house that we deem secure enough for the role it has to perform. We take a risk-based approach to our household security.

Such pragmatic logic is the foundation that many cyber security systems are built upon. Yet when dealing with cyber security, the general public think in absolute terms. The air transport industry has managed to overcome this form of thinking in terms air travel safety and I’m sure could do the same in cyber security. But why would we want to?

Digital communications, apps and all other systems we use before and at the airport create a perception of the provider. Offering safe and secure systems are a means of providing the passenger with a seamless user experience. Getting everything right matters! The end user may not see the difference between an app provider, a check system and an aircraft system. But a glitch in any of these may be seen as an insecure system at the airport, thus jeopardising the passenger’s perceived safety of the whole travel experience.

If we embrace good cyber security practices, through training and secure systems, we have the opportunity to promote an airport as cyber safe haven. Cyber security is still rising in prominence and will not be going away anytime soon. An airport could get one step ahead of its rivals by promoting how cyber aware and secure they are.

This article was originally published by International Airport Review.

About Dr John McCarthy

Dr John McCarthy PhD BSc (Hons) MBCS is a renowned authority on cyber security strategy, development and implementation and is an Airport Cyber Security Fellow for ServiceTec Global Services.

Dr McCarthy is frequently invited to sit on expert panels and appear as a speaker at well-known security events including International Airport Review’s own Airport Security and Airport IT events. Past appearances have included talks on ICT Security in the Modern Airport, Security in the Digital Age and SCADA threats in the Modern Airport. He has also been a member of International Airport Review’s Editorial Board since January 2014.

Dr McCarthy is also a leading expert on social engineering awareness training and best practice.