Nov. 17, 2014

Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan podcast on the Aviation Security Summit.

NBAA, along with other aviation interests, participated earlier this month in the 14th Annual Aviation Security Summit, hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

“It was a great way to learn about new security policies and new technologies being put forward by the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection (CBP),” said NBAA’s Senior Manager of Security and Facilitation Sarah Wolf, who represented the Association at the summit.

While the summit was primarily focused on airport and airline issues, Wolf identified five key topic areas of interest to business aircraft operators.

1. Cyber Security

“Cyber security has been a hot topic for AAAE and the NBAA Security Council,” said Wolf. “We’re hearing a lot about issues related to computer security, office security and the fact that many aircraft systems are not encrypted and therefore may be vulnerable to hackers.”

Another fast-rising issue in cyber security is the human factor, noted Wolf. In many cases, cyber security faults are caused by employees who click on a malware link or unknowingly breach security in hundreds of small ways.

“The conference highlighted ways to do business so that you manage the impact of cyber threats, knowing you are likely to be attacked in the near future,” Wolf said.

Some suggestions were:

  • Educate your employees on your systems and protocols, and why they should not click on unknown links
  • Don’t try to defend your entire system. Start with the highest priority items
  • Know what your worst-case scenario is, and have a strategy planned out in case of attack
  • Know your weaknesses and don’t underestimate the problems

2. Risk-Based Security

Constantly assessing the operating environment and being able to discern new threats as they present themselves is a skill being developed in the industry, Wolf said. Learning how to adapt under different conditions and applying just the right measure of security are all components of a risk-based security program.

Wolf said the TSA is working hard to adapt its security protocols to this philosophy, finding that it allows for greater flexibility for both its own personnel and the passengers and companies it considers its clientele. “This trend is a good one for business aircraft operators, too,” said Wolf. “Historically, the TSA has tried to apply airline-style security to general aviation operations, which isn’t appropriate for operations where the passengers and crew are well vetted by the operator. NBAA continues to work with the TSA to make sure they fully understand our industry and adopt appropriate programs.”

3. Expansion of the TSA Pre-Check Program

Approximately 30 percent of the flying public is now taking advantage of the TSA’s Pre-Check program, or its CBP counterpart, the Global Entry program. Wolf said both organizations are working to expand these programs to include general aviation employees such as flight crew members; fuelers and ramp workers who have already undergone background checks in order to obtain airport access; and others.

New innovations in the program could soon allow better matching between program participants and their luggage, so if a security protocol is activated in baggage handling, it can be better correlated with the person to whom it belongs.

4. Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center

One of the more exciting developments discussed at the summit was the establishment of a center for sharing information between government security agencies and industry representatives, Wolf said.

“The creation of an analysis center isn’t new to the intelligence community, but it is new to general aviation,” she said. While airlines, financial interests and other vital economic components have set up such centers, this is the first time general aviation has been afforded such an opportunity.

Wolf compared it to the creation of a partnership between the FAA and its Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Warrenton, VA, where the NBAA Air Traffic Services group advises and obtains data for its clients and the community.

“In this case, they’ll look at threats and decide, based on input from general aviation partners and their knowledge, the validity or seriousness of a potential threat,” said Wolf.

5. Biometrics and New Technologies

Imagine being on the ramp, far from the office, when a vital, time-sensitive piece of information crosses your desk requiring your secure approval. Now imagine being able to use a smart phone or tablet to handle the issue. In some airports, that is already a reality – one Wolf said is becoming more available to both public and private decision-makers at the airport.

“They allow managers to do cost correlations, employment approvals and other types of verification on the fly, from wherever they are, through facial recognition,” Wolf explained.

In another innovation, CBP is working on a passport smartphone app that would greatly streamline passport processing and other border-crossing functions.

“CBP is looking to become more user-friendly,” she said. “This is very exciting.”