GMR Aviation Academy and Information Sharing and Analysis Center Collaborate in Aviation Cyber Security

Civil aviation is heavily dependent on IT-enabled technologies to increase air transport safety and efficiency. Today, the aviation ecosystem is a complex environment with variety of Mission critical IT & OT systems. However, systems' interconnectivity and dependency on technology have created exposure to new cyber risks. For the industry that has pioneered safety and efficiency, Cybersecurity risk is a relatively new challenge.

The aviation industry uses a comprehensive computer-based interconnected system, including air navigation systems, onboard aircraft control and communication systems, ticketing, airport ground systems, flight information systems, cargo management, security screening, and many others for daily aviation-related operations.

Aviation has always been the target for crime and terror due to various reasons and the primary focus of security agencies. With over 120 commercial airports and total 400 Airports in India, there is an urgent need to prepare the aviation industry for cyber threats, vulnerabilities and incidents so that the aviation industry can manage cyber threats.

India's first Aviation ISAC has been setup by Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a leading non-profit foundation focused on cyber security. ISAC is a public-private-partner (PPP) with National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Center (NCIIPC), under Prime Minister’s Office and is a partner with Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), under MeitY, partnering with Min of Edn under NEAT 2.0 program . ISAC has an MoU with AICTE which mandates ISAC to train 100000 persons each in cyber security and Workplace Ethics.

GMR Aviation Academy (GMR AA) was established at the state-of-the-art Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, Hyderabad in 2009, with the objective of providing professional training and enhancing the knowledge and skills of GMR Airports' personnel. Over the years, it has emerged as a global gateway for Aviation learning in India for not only GMR's own personnel, but also for its peers and allied agencies in India and abroad with a full-fledged unit in Delhi as well. The Academy conducts training programmes accredited by Airport Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) of India with focus on Asia Pacific, Middle East and African regions. The Academy is the only one of its kind in India to have been conferred with the "Regional Training center of Excellence" (RTCE) stature of ICAO and the "Global training HUB" by the ACI. It is also an Authorized Training Center and Accredited Training School of IATA.

ISAC and GMR Aviation Academy recently  signed an MoU to build capacity and skills in Cyber Security for the Aviation Industry.

"Attacks on aviation sector have only increased and as part of the Aviation-ISAC initiative, we plan to roll out cybersecurity advisories, access to radical database, availability of expert digital forensic professionals and aviation specific threat intelligence to all the aviation sector stakeholders in India" said Group Captain Aanand Naidu (Retd), Director of ISAC. Adding further he said, "GMR is India's largest Airport operator and the collaboration with the GMR Aviation Academy will enable us to make available our expertise for the benefit of the entire aviation industry, which has significant national importance and is a CII".

Smart airports are the next big focus in India, which use data driven analysis and response to provide the travellers with a seamless travel experience to ensure higher levels of security for the safety of the passengers and operators. These smart airports are implementing emerging technologies that offer travellers a range of services like machine readable travel documents (MRTD), automated check-in, baggage check, and enhanced  airports physical security systems including facial recognition systems.

Bithal Bhardwaj, Group CISO for GMR spoke about the increasing complexity of Airports utilizing smart components and said that "The aviation ecosystem is a complex environment with global interconnectivity, a variety of Mission-critical IT & OT systems, and requires a special focus on physical security. The job needs specialized skills, which is why the focus of the collaboration is to release a course on IoT and SCADA cyber security audit focused on Smart Airports".

The collaboration between ISAC and GMRAA aims to bring immense benefits for the entire aviation sector and one of the first outcomes is an upcoming cyber security conference on 24th March, 2021 under the aegis of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), Government of India, which will see international experts participating and sharing their insights on Aviation Cyber Security.