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Wings clipped: Aviation group caught out in cyberattack

The Aviation industry has been a prominent target for cyberattacks in the past few months.

North American airlines are leading the return to the industry's profitability
North American airlines are leading the return to the industry's profitability - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP WIN MCNAMEE
North American airlines are leading the return to the industry's profitability - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP WIN MCNAMEE

The American Airlines pilot union – Allied Pilots Association- representing 15,00 pilots has suffered a data breached in an apparent cyber-incident.  The organisation is based throughout the U.S.

Looking into the ramifications of this for Digital Journal is Kevin Kirkwood, Deputy CISO at LogRhythm.

Kirkwood begins by assessing the actual breach and the significance on the trade union: 2The American Airlines pilot union, representing 15,00 pilots, was hit with a ransomware attack late last week. Founded in 1963, it is the largest independent pilots’ union in the world.”

With the specific risk factors, Kirkwood says: “The organization is seeking outside experts to restore their systems and is still assessing what personally identifiable information (PII) was breached, only announcing that some systems were encrypted.”

While the recent attack was directed towards a worker’s organisation, the sector that the union is attached to is one that is vulnerable to these forms of threat. Here Kirkwood acknowledges: “The Aviation industry has been a prominent target for cyberattacks in the past few months. In June, Pilot Credentials informed American Airlines and Southwest Airlines that the PII of pilots was breached.”

Examples of other attacks include: “In October, Air Europa and Air Canada both faced cyber incidents, and in early November, Boeing responded to a ransomware claim from the LockBit ransomware group.”

Spanish airline Air Europa was forced to warn customers to cancel their credit cards after attackers accessed their card information in a recent data breach. With the other incident, the BianLian extortion group claimed to have stolen 210GB of data after breaching the network of Air Canada.

There are things that can be done to push back on such attacks. Kirkwood notes: “The number of cyberattacks happening in the aviation industry should be combated with the investment in proper security strategies to mitigate any future breaches. Especially given American Airlines pilot union’s IT team seeking support from outside experts, it is imperative for organizations to properly configure their intricate IT infrastructure with full visibility into the environment, allowing security teams to detect threats earlier.”

In terms of the advantages, Kirkwood observes: “This enables them to attain a comprehensive perspective on unusual and harmful actions across all aspects, facilitating swift and comprehensive countermeasures.” Furthermore, the expert finds: “By deploying a finely-tuned security monitoring system, the American Airlines pilot union would have had a higher chance of identifying signs of compromise and addressing the threat promptly. “

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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