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Cyber security: Why the aviation industry is investing big in IT infrastructure

Cyber security aviation: Jeju Air

Cyber security, business intelligence, flight and revenue management systems are considered as some of the priority IT investments for airlines today. Aviation Business News highlights some recent developments.

In the last 18 months or so, the airline industry has seen a surge in investment towards IT infrastructure. The industry has also been blighted by some serious IT issues. From big application failures causing flights to be cancelled, to colossal data breaches that have affected thousands of air travellers.

Data breach should be a wakeup call

British Airways (BA) and Cathay Pacific are just two examples of recent victims of data breaches. Airlines have a duty to keep the planes in the air, and the majority of investment goes into that.

However, recent outages show investment should also be directed at technology and cyber security. As airlines become ever more dependent on software, this creates a greater surface for hackers to attack, and so it is no surprise that breaches of this scale are becoming commonplace.

Using the latest BA data breach revelation as an example, director at CA Veracode, Paul Farrington, discusses that these breaches could suggest a lack of focus from airlines.

Is it possible that airlines are investing too much in keeping their aircrafts in the sky, as opposed to guarding passenger data on the ground, in their own IT systems and cyber security?

“It’s disheartening, but not surprising that hackers exploited British Airways again. As the amount of personal data held by organisations continues to grow, hackers are finding more sophisticated ways to gain access to this data and use it to make a profit.

“Application security is a $3 billion market and climbing because applications are vulnerable to attack and are one of the top weaknesses hackers look to exploit.”

The plethora of data breaches witnessed over the past year has been remarkable, with British Airways reporting two separate hacks, with it being announced that the data hack was more far-reaching that initially suspected.

Cybersecurity, IT infrastructure
Cecil – FDM has been adopted by almost every airline

Russian airline, Aeroflot, reported a docker registry vulnerability to the public internet back in September this year, and, of course, not forgetting the very recent Cathay Pacific data breach of which around 9.4 million passengers of Cathay and its unit Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited had been accessed without authorisation.

This included 860,000 passport numbers, about 245,000 Hong Kong identity card numbers, 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no card verification value.

Although there has been some improvement, organisations need to fix bugs much faster, stated Farrington. “From our State of Software Security Report (SoSS), the research showed more than 70per cent of all software flaws remained one month after discovery, and nearly 55per cent remained three months after discovery.

Cyber security aviation: Tibet Airlines
Tibet Airlines is looking to maximise passenger revenues

“As businesses become more dependent on web apps, not fixing bugs quickly creates a greater attack surface. In addition, developers are using open source components for a majority of their code, gaining speed but increasing risk if vulnerabilities are not accounted for,” he warned.

In such cases, travellers tend to have the right to be angry. Farrington advises that if organisations want to avoid becoming the next victim of a breach, it is crucial that they take significant steps to secure their software quickly to ensure that they are doing the utmost to protect data privacy.

Accelerating revenue growth

In November, South Korean LCC Jeju Air announced that it had chosen revenue management solution provider PROS to strengthen its revenue management capabilities.

Based in Seoul, Jeju Air currently has 55 regular routes across 40 cities in the Asia-Pacific region utilising 37 aircraft.

Planning for continued success over the next few years, the airline recognised it would benefit from a strong revenue management system that was flexible and could handle its current and future business models and support its targeted growth.

Cyber security, revenue management, IT infrastructure, aviation
Airlines are seeing the benefits of science-based revenue management says Mehta

“We needed a revenue management system that offered flexibility to support our short- and long-term goals,” said MyungSeop Yoo, chief commercial officer of Jeju Air.

“We selected PROS revenue management to help our company grow as we expand our destinations and fleet. Beyond its best-in-class technology, PROS will play a strategic role in training our team on the latest revenue management best practices, which will enable us to accelerate our growth.”

The new solution will ultimately [it’s hoped] blend PROS’s decades of revenue management expertise with automation to help airlines make confident decisions, featuring science-based demand forecasting and optimisation with decision support.

Aditi Mehta, senior product marketing manager, Travel at PROS tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business that it is imperative that LCCs and other airlines improve their forecasting, automate processes and optimise business decisions to increase revenue.

“Identifying new revenue opportunities while operating in very competitive, cut-throat markets continues to be top-of-mind for low cost carriers. More of these airlines are seeing the benefits of science-based revenue management to make better business decisions, and directly impact their bottom line. Investing in the technology today not only drives immediate impact, but also ensures long term success,” Mehta suggests.

In other news, the Accelya Group Company (RMS), announced that it had been selected to provide Tibet Airlines with its state-of-the-art revenue management, inventory control, and reporting tools.

airRM – as the technology is referred, will enable Tibet Airlines to identify sales opportunities, maximise passenger revenues, closely control pricing, and analyse performance.

Tibet Airlines is the fifth and most recent addition to RMS’s customers in the Chinese market. They join Beijing Capital Airlines, Chengdu Airlines, Shandong Airlines and China United Airlines.

“Tibet Airlines is one of the fastest-growing airlines in China. We welcome them onboard with RMS,” said Landie Qiu, Manager of Sales and Support – Asia-Pacific at RMS.

“In the past few years, RMS has invested a lot in airRM localisation in China. We aim to provide the most relevant and efficient tools to Chinese airlines. It is one of the reasons that airRM was chosen by Tibet Airlines.”

Cyber security, aviation
Airlines need to take significant steps to secure their software

Exporting IT technology to Africa

Global airline and travel IT solution provider Hitit has continued its penetration in Africa, with the recement announcement that Ghanaian start up carrier PassionAir is the latest African customer for its technology brand ‘Crane’.

PassionAir is operating scheduled flights domestically from its Accra hub to Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale with three Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

Hitit’s mobile App will have strategic values for PassionAir as more than 400 million people across West Africa now subscribe to mobile services, with the number expected to grow to 725 million by 2020.

Ghana is one of Africa’s largest mobile markets, with about 34.57 million subscribers and 10.11 million active internet users. As a new partner of Hitit, the Ghanaian airline has chosen to use the Crane solution suite.

This suite includes solutions for passenger reservation (Crane PAX), departure control (Crane DCS), internet booking engine (Crane IBE), mobile app, Loyalty Layer (Crane LL) and Customer Care Layer (Crane CCL).

Furthermore, Hitit’s global IT network for airlines will put PassionAir in the position to extend regional flights within the West African subregion for the medium term, by using interline and codeshare agreements.

Nevra Onursal Karaagac, chief marketing and sales officer of Hitit, said: “We are happy to support PassionAir with innovative technology solutions in order to enhance quality and reliability in Ghana’s aviation infrastructure. PassionAir is our first partner from Ghana and, eighth airline partner in Africa.”

Karaagac said Hitit has a very strong position in Africa. “Many airlines from flag-carriers to start-ups do business with Hitit. There is significant word of mouth marketing in Africa in support of our solutions.”

Cyber security, BA operations, data breaches
BA operations were recently affected by data breaches

Anita Khoury, commercial manager of PassionAir, declared: “We are ecstatic to be using the Crane solutions. The innovative solutions offered by Hitit put PassionAir in a strategic position for our expansion plans, growth and development.

“The flexibility of the system and immense customer support provided by Hitit have supported many recommendations from other African airlines about the system being the number one aviation solution provider.”

PassionAir is Hitit’s third new airline partner this year and eighth collaboration in Africa. Strategically, Africa is one of the most important continents not only for Hitit, but also for Turkey.

Visit flypassionair.com for more information.

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