Aviation is a common target for cyberattacks due to its critical role in society, the vast amount of personal information it stores, and its government funding — and unfortunately, cyberattacks are extremely common. Here’s how AI can be used to boost cybersecurity in the aviation sector.


SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Zachary Amos – “Will AI Reduce or Deepen the Digital Divide?”



The aviation sector is increasingly relying on internet-connected devices and interconnected digital systems, increasing the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches. Needless to say, an urgent solution is essential, which could be artificial intelligence (AI). AI is fast, versatile and adaptive, so it seems like the ideal tool. Can it permanently improve aviation cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity Concerns in the Aviation Industry

A ransomware attack is one of the most common cyberattacks. Globally, the aviation sector experiences one at least once per week on average. Threat actors know airlines are desperate to keep planes in the air, so they’re easy target.

Data breaches are another huge cybersecurity concern in aviation. Hackers know commercial airlines store passenger data — names, addresses and birth dates — which can be very valuable on the dark web. They covertly infiltrate systems to steal and leak information.

An insider threat is a threat that comes from inside an organization. Unfortunately, it’s relatively common. In 2023, 30% of chief information security officers felt it was one of the biggest dangers. More often than not, an employee’s mistake causes a cybersecurity incident.

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Why Do Cybercriminals Target Aviation?

Threat actors and cybercriminals will target any sector as long as they can steal valuable data and secure ransom payments. However, aviation is a prominent target for these reasons.

Military Aviation

While the Air Force is advanced enough to stop many cyberattacks relatively easily, it deals with a tremendous number of them. Foreign countries, terror groups and digital attackers know the sensitive, top-secret data in military systems would be incredibly valuable on the dark web.

Commercial Aviation

Threat actors frequently concentrate their efforts on civil aviation. In 2020, 61% of aviation-related cyberattacks targeted commercial airlines. They’re valuable targets since they store a massive amount of personally identifiable data and get government funding.

Cyberattacks can force airlines to ground their planes until they resolve the situation, causing billions of dollars in lost revenue and refunds. Compliance-related fees and reputation damage can also have a massive financial impact on them.

Artificial Intelligence Alleviates Cybersecurity Concerns

AI can alleviate aviation’s main cybersecurity concerns and adapt to emerging threats.

  • Updates and Patches

If software doesn’t receive updates, new vulnerabilities appear — and hackers exploit them. In response, aviation engineers use generative AI to expedite code base testing to guarantee patch installation, securing critical systems against cyberattacks faster.

  • Incident Response

While cybersecurity professionals don’t work around the clock, cybercriminals do. Fortunately, AI can automatically respond to cybersecurity incidents during off-hours. It can either send critical alerts to prompt manual intervention or initiate a predetermined reaction.

  • Autonomous Adaptation

Machine learning models can autonomously adapt as they receive new information. In other words, they don’t need any manual intervention to learn. They’ll get more accurate over time instead of becoming outdated like most other hardware. As a result, they know how to react to unique cybersecurity threats.

  • Threat Detection

AI can learn from past cybersecurity incidents to understand what suspicious activity and anomalies look like. It enables predictive analytics, which essentially allows airlines to predict when and how cyberattacks will occur.

  • Automatic Operation

Algorithms operate automatically, enabling them to work incredibly fast. According to Matthew Strohmeyer — an Air Force colonel — one of the military’s machine learning models can complete a task in 10 minutes that would take humans days. AI can work around the clock without manual intervention to detect, categorize and respond to threats.

Artificial Intelligence Strengthens Cybersecurity Efforts

Algorithms check all the boxes regarding cybersecurity. They’re fast, automatic, adaptable and affordable. Even commercial airlines — which have notoriously thin operating margins — can afford to leverage AI because it doesn’t need much power to run constantly.

As cyberattacks continue increasing in frequency, AI will likely become the go-to solution for aviation cybersecurity. It can protect against the most prominent concerns — ransomware, insider threats and data breaches — by minimizing human error, identifying threats faster than humans and securing systems against threat actors.

About the Author:

Zachary AmosZachary Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other technology-related topics.