Cybersecurity attacks on the rise as digital transformation progresses

Guest Author by Guest Author | May 19, 2020

Written by David Lenot, Airport Application Group, Genetec and Cheryl Stewart, Airport Marketing Analyst, Genetec

With the global digitization and shift towards a more connected tomorrow, digital transformation as well as the democratization of data is seen in almost all industries, and airports are no different. It has almost become a must for companies to incorporate digital transformation into their planning to avoid lagging behind their competitors in gaining and retaining customers. Modern airports are actively investing in new systems and technologies to improve their everyday security, operations as well as passenger experiences. The World Economic Forum predicts that the global economic impact of digital transformation will hit $100 trillion by 2025. While according to IATA, a total of $1.2 to $1.5 trillion is expected to be spent on global airport infrastructure development up to 2030.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, concerns over cybersecurity have been heightened. As reported in Forbes, “cybersecurity risk is on the rise” with current defenses being challenged and weaknesses being exposed through the proliferation of work-from-home arrangements. 

Digital transformation in airports

Over the past few years, digital transformation has accelerated in airports especially in passenger facing services such as check-in kiosk, bag-drop, and self-boarding passes. However, less emphasis has been placed on improving back-end systems such as IT and security systems. Now by leaving the back-end systems to age, this not only hinders the potential to improve airport operations in the long run, it also introduces vulnerabilities to the security system as it is being pushed to its limit to sustain the increase in responsibilities that comes with digitization. Based on a recent study by cybersecurity firm Immuniweb, 97 out of the top 100 largest airports in the world failed basic security checks that was intended to test the strength of their security system. It was also found that an average of 1000 airport cyber-attacks occur each month, according to a study conducted by the European Aviation Security Agency (EASA). These are indeed concerning numbers as airports are increasingly exposed to breaches of such as they move into this digital age where majority of systems and hardware within organizations are interconnected.So, the question is, what can airports do to harden their cybersecurity infrastructure to prevent such breaches from tarnishing their reputation and affecting their bottom-line? And since removing digital transformation from the equation is not a viable option, what are some key tips for airports to improve their position in cybersecurity?

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Cybersecurity recommendations

1. Invest in a reliable security system

As cyberattacks evolve over time from lone wolf hackers to more sophisticated attackers from organized groups, looking for a security system that is developed with cybersecurity at the forefront is mandatory. Searching for a solution designed with several security layers, employing advanced authentication, and encryption technologies. A reliable security system is one that anticipates and prevents breaches. It is able to clearly report on what’s happening in the airport environment and what needs to be done to get the airport back on track. The solution should also be flexible and one that can adjust with industry requirements – providing system maintenance and updates regularly. Understanding the ways in which to harden a cybersecurity platform is key.

2. Protect physical security just as much as cybersecurity

All the efforts put into protecting cybersecurity would be as strong as your weakest link if none of it was directed towards safeguarding physical security assets such as video surveillance cameras, access control readers, and monitors in anairport. The reason being is that physical systems are part of the connected airport system, therefore cybercriminals can gain access and compromise internal systems through vulnerable physical assets. Therefore, specific measures need to be put in place to ensure the protection of physical asset and its management system. The fastest way to fo this is by carefully selecting trustworthy vendors throughout the physical security supply chain and verify their commitment towards cybersecurity.

3. Explore airport specific security solutions

Airports like all industries, face their own distinct challenges. Therefore, having a security system that is built to tackle airport specific problems is ideal in fool proofing its system. In today’s day and age, buying into a system that only serves one purpose is foolish. Security systems should not only be able to provide airports with advance security protection, but also allow them to leverage information uncovering data driven insights used to optimize an airports terminal operations and passenger experiences.

Global digitization is happening whether industries are ready for it or not. Adapting current security systems to serve airport specific environments not only provides a more cohesive solution but also protects airports from future cyber attacks.


David Lenot leads the Airport Application Group of Genetec. With his team, he is redefining the way Airports leverage Genetec solutions to not only increase their security, but also improve their operations and generate more revenue. In this strategic role, David is responsible for developing new features, solutions, and working with industry organizations as well as engage with ends users from around the globe.


Cheryl Stewart is the Airport Marketing Analyst at Genetec. Her main responsibility is to develop go-to-market strategies by conducting market research and analysis to better understand the needs of airport end users across the globe. She has close to 4 years experience in business analysis and customer service in the aviation industry.

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