We are living in an increasingly connected world and aviation is no exception to that trend. Whether in the cockpit, in the cabin or on the ground, connectivity is enabling a whole new dimension of flight safety, operational efficiency for airlines, and comfort and enjoyment for passengers. These new capabilities are also associated with critical cybersecurity concerns that have to be factored into the design of new products and systems, and catered for throughout their operational life cycle.
At ground level, the aviation chain of digital operations is ever more extensive. In airports, all services are connected to facilitate the passenger experience and reduce flight operation workloads. Airline operation centres are increasingly digitized, from crew management and flight planning systems to passenger management systems. Aircraft maintenance centres are veritable software nodes, with system and content updates flowing constantly. And air traffic management is dependent on real-time communication, navigation and surveillance capabilities that are increasingly connected.
The age of the connected aircraft
Above our heads, today’s aircraft are mobile communications and data hubs that are projected to generate 98 million terabytes of data by 2026. To be more efficient, cockpit systems are increasingly connected to open-world sources. For instance, in order to optimize flight profiles and trajectories, the aircraft’s flight management systems capitalize on real-time meteorological and traffic data. Furthermore, instead of relying on print-outs and binders, pilots now use compact Electronic Flight Bags which provide a host of useful permanently-updated resources and applications to optimize operations.
Cabin-side, the in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems provide passengers not only with a means of keeping themselves occupied, but also deliver a wide range of personalized services, information that can be customized by the airlines according to passenger profile, destination, and type of journey, and connectivity and communications capabilities that enable the passenger to feel as home in the air as they are on the ground!
Proven cybersecurity solutions
These are all areas in which Thales is a benchmark supplier, and Thales products and systems are all delivered with stringent “cyber-by-design” credentials that ensure they are resistant to the multiple associated real-world risks associated with cyber attacks: data theft, jamming, injection of modified messages, compromised signals, malicious corruption, spoofing, malevolent actions, etc. Thales’s priority is to guarantee the safety and business resilience of those that use our systems, forming an effective, seamless aviation safety network.
As well as natively embedding cybersecurity into our engineering and manufacturing processes, Thales has set up dedicated units to respond to customers’ cybersecurity incidents, applying an approach built around the Identify – Recover – Respond – Detect – Protect cycle. Thales also provides optional cybersecurity solutions and services that serve as preventative measures to enable continuous improvement. For flight operations, Thales provides end-to-end protection from cockpit through to cabin and ground systems, creating a secure critical data chain.
Strengthened airline information security and cyber strategy
Finally, a structured offering has been conceived to enable airline customers to make cybersecurity an integral part of their operations. This extends from building a cybersecurity strategy and making it part of their everyday activities, to how to handle a crisis, how to engage and raise awareness among employees, and how to constantly keep abreast of threats and developments with a view to staying on top.
Through this dynamic and proactive approach, Thales is able to take connected aviation to new heights, whilst ensuring flight operations, ground and onboard systems, and the passenger experience are cyber safe, resilient and secure.