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  • 27 September 2023
  • 6 min read

What cyber and awareness risks face the aerospace and defence sector?

The aerospace and defence sector is at the forefront of technological innovation and national security. However, with innovation comes vulnerability.
FAQ Series What cyber and awareness risks face the aerospace and defence sector

Today, we will delve into the unique cyber security and awareness vulnerabilities and threats facing this critical industry, shedding light on emerging risks and the importance of robust training and awareness programs.

Understanding the aerospace and defence cyber landscape

To grasp the gravity of the cyber security challenges faced by the aerospace and defence sector, it is essential to recognise the sector's strategic importance. From military operations to sensitive research and development, this sector plays a pivotal role in national defence.

Here are the key vulnerabilities and threats:

Vulnerability #1: Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

Nation-state actors often launch APTs targeting aerospace and defence organisations. These highly sophisticated and prolonged attacks aim to steal classified information or gain long-term access to systems. State-sponsored cyber espionage is rampant in this sector, with significant financial and security implications. Imagine a defence contractor working on a classified project. A cyber breach could stem from a nation-state actor infiltrating their network, covertly exfiltrating sensitive project data over months, eventually undermining national security. Mandiant has collected a helpful list of APT groups that target many organisations in the aerospace and defence sectors for your perusal.

Vulnerability #2: Supply Chain Attacks

The complex supply chains in aerospace and defence make them susceptible to supply chain attacks. Malicious actors may compromise a component supplier, injecting malware, or backdoors into critical systems. Picture an aerospace manufacturer unknowingly receiving compromised avionics components. These components have hidden vulnerabilities that could lead to catastrophic consequences in flight or in other operations. The US government recently made the decision to classify aerospace as critical infrastructure with occurrences of ransomware in the supply chain up 600% in just one year (Boeing, MRO Americas Conference).

Vulnerability #3: Human error and insider threats

As in any industry, human error and insider threats can be significant vulnerabilities. Even well-intentioned employees can inadvertently compromise security. Consider an employee who falls victim to a phishing email. Unbeknownst to them, their compromised account allows attackers to access sensitive defence blueprints, creating a grave security breach. Cybersecurity Insiders’ 2023 Insider Threat Report states that 74% of organisations are at least moderately vulnerable to insider threats and they are getting costlier and costlier; in The Ponemon Institute’s third study on the cost of insider threats in 2022, the total average cost of insider threats increased by 76% between 2018 and 2022.

Vulnerability #4: Weak security culture

Combatting a lax or weak security culture starts with confronting employee behaviours and the capacity for behaviour and culture change. Understanding human behaviour is crucial in cyber security. Behavioural science models are increasingly being used to predict and mitigate insider threats. Behavioural analysis can uncover patterns that traditional security measures may miss. For example, a defence or aerospace organisation could enlist the help of TSC to run behavioural surveys and analysis based in behavioural science models to identify unusual patterns among employees and departments. This proactive approach detects a potential insider threat early, preventing data breaches and costly fines.

Vulnerability #5: Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

As the aerospace and defence is teeming with IoT and ICS for enhanced efficiency, the potential for vulnerabilities and cyber risks is rife. These interconnected devices can be targeted by malicious actors. Ensuring the security of these systems is crucial. Picture a military base with smart infrastructure powered by IoT. An attacker exploits a vulnerability in the base's HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system, gaining unauthorised access to sensitive areas, potentially compromising national security. Checkpoint research reveals 41% increase in the average number of weekly attacks per organisation targeting IoT devices in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Furthermore, on average, every week 54% of organisations suffer from attempted cyber-attacks targeting IoT devices. IoT devices in European organisations are the most targeted, followed by those in APAC and Latin America-based organisations.

The evolving regulatory landscape

As cyber threats evolve, so do regulations and compliance requirements. Decision-makers must keep pace with changing mandates and standards. The European Union's NIS Directive and the U.S. Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) are examples of regulatory shifts that impact the aerospace and defence sector. A defence contractor that fails to meet the latest compliance standards faces contractual penalties and reputational damage, potentially losing government contracts.

The role of cyber security training and awareness

In the face of these complex vulnerabilities and threats, cyber security training and awareness programs are paramount. Aerospace and defence organisations must prioritise ongoing education and culture change to protect their critical assets. Working with experienced organisations like The Security Company Ltd. (TSC) can provide tailored solutions to enhance cyber security awareness and target your specific security and awareness gaps.

  • The importance of training: Regular, up-to-date training programs are essential for all employees, from engineers to executives. Simulated phishing exercises and scenario-based games and training on ransomware, supply chain risks, remote working and more can help employees recognise and resist social engineering and cyber-attacks. Incorporating behaviour and awareness surveys rooted in behavioural science can help organisations identify and address potential insider threats proactively and continuously, allowing you to stay ahead of the threat curve.
  • Culture change: Cultivating a cyber security-aware culture ensures that security is everyone's responsibility. Building behavioural resilience is essential. Cybersecurity awareness programs should focus not only on threat recognition but also on building a resilient workforce capable of responding effectively to incidents. Leadership should champion security initiatives to set an example for the entire organisation. And organisations should work with awareness and culture change professionals to get an outside perspective supported by expert analysis and a lack of bias.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1: Why is supply chain security critical in this sector?

Aerospace and defence organisations rely on a complex web of suppliers. Supply chain attacks can introduce vulnerabilities into critical systems, posing a significant security risk.

Q2: How can organisations collaborate with TSC aka The Security Company Ltd.?

TSC specialises in creating customised cyber security training and awareness programs. Organisations can collaborate with TSC to develop tailored solutions to address their unique cyber security challenges.

Q3: What is the role of leadership in fostering a cyber security-aware culture?

Leadership plays a crucial role in setting the tone for cyber security awareness. By championing security initiatives and prioritising training, executives can promote a culture of security throughout the organisation by setting an example that must be followed.

Wrapping it up

The aerospace and defence sector demands a proactive and holistic approach to cyber security. From advanced persistent threats to insider threats and supply chain vulnerabilities, cyber security decision-makers must stay vigilant and invest in training and awareness to protect sensitive data and national security interests.

If you would like informationabout how The Security Company can help you to formulate a cyber security training and awareness program for your aerospace or defence organisation or if you would like a demo of our products and services ... please contact our Head of Business Development and Sales,  Jenny Mandley.

The Security Company's vast library of customised and non-customised products and services are tailored for small, medium and large organisations and are available in a variety of languages. We also offer bespoke solutions for organisations that desire training and awareness materials built from the ground up.

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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