Australia: The cyber risks faced by the aviation industry - ten things to know

Last Updated: 8 November 2016

Cyber risk is a broad concept that encompasses a range of risks arising out of the use of data and information technology.

Cyber risk is a concept that the aviation industry has been engaging with for some time and the industry is generally perceived to be some distance ahead of others in terms of cyber risk management.

However, recent analysis suggests that cyber risk is a growing threat to the industry, with one recent report suggesting that it is now subject to over 1,000 cyber-attacks per month.

This article provides an overview of the ways in which cyber risk affects the aviation industry and how this risk might best be managed.

1. Cyber risk can expose you to regulatory liability

Airlines hold large amounts of personal data belonging to crew and customers. For an airline to directly engage with customers on an e-commerce platform, it needs to retain a large amount of potentially sensitive personal data ranging from credit card details to medical information.

If this data is lost, compromised or otherwise used in an inappropriate way, an airline could be exposed to considerable liability to regulators. An airline's customers or clients are likely to be based in a range of jurisdictions, which in theory could lead to a number of national data privacy regulators taking action against the airline in the event of an adverse data incident.

Regulatory changes, such as the impending EU General Data Protection Regulation, mean that stakeholders in the aviation industry are likely to be at greater risk of regulatory liability in future.

2. Cyber risk can leave you liable to clients and customers

As well as exposure to regulators, loss or misuse of personal data can lead to stakeholders in the aviation industry facing legal action from their clients and customers.

The legal landscape is evolving in a number of jurisdictions to allow a broader range of claims to be brought in these circumstances. For example, the English courts recently acknowledged a claimant's ability to bring a tort claim for misuse of private information and allowed claims to be brought under the Data Protection Act 1998 in circumstances where no pecuniary loss has been suffered.

The incidental costs involved in responding to adverse cyber incidents, which may involve providing credit monitoring services or remediation plans to all affected customers, can also be very high.

3. Cyber risk affects physical assets

A number of commentators have suggested that automated systems used in the aviation industry may contain weaknesses that may allow aircraft to be hacked and remotely controlled, with potentially catastrophic consequences. While there is little solid evidence surrounding the feasibility of such a hacking, it is undeniable that aviation is now more reliant than ever on automation and that the cybersecurity underlying this automation is of vital importance in ensuring there is no risk to aircraft or, as a consequence, to passengers and other physical assets.

4. Cyber risk affects your ability to do business

There are a number of ways in which cyber risk can lead to lengthy and costly interruptions to business. The much-publicised possibility of a cyber-attack on air traffic control systems could, for example, lead to widespread disruption in the industry which would lead to extensive business interruption losses.

Company-specific cyber risks, such as the prospect of a distributed denial-of-service attack on an airline's website, could equally cause extensive disruption to that airline's ability to do business.

5. Cyber risk can damage your reputation in the market

To date, there has not been a high-profile adverse cyber incident in the aviation industry that has brought into focus the reputational harm that cyber risk can cause. However, one only has to look at high-profile incidents in other industries - perhaps most notably, healthcare and retail following high-profile incidents in the US – to see the reputational harm that can be caused.

How to manage those cyber risks

6. You can't manage your cyber risks unless you know what they are

In order to effectively manage risk it is vital to identify and monitor the risk landscape that you are facing, from a technological and operational risk perspective as well as in terms of legal and regulatory risk.

This should be seen as a pervasive element of any stakeholder's risk management strategy and should not be seen as an issue that is confined to IT or technology.

7. You need proper policies and procedures to manage cyber risk

Policies and procedure documents are a key risk management tool. They provide a framework around which cyber risk should be managed on a day-to-day level and also provide the basis for a rapid and effective response in the event than an adverse incident does occur – this can be invaluable in containing the impact of an incident.

8. You are only as strong as your weakest link when it comes to cyber risk

Aviation in an interconnected industry and reliance is placed on the cyber infrastructure of a range of third parties, from air traffic control to outsourced service providers.

It is therefore important that you are happy that all elements of your supply chain have sufficient cyber risk management strategies in place, to prevent adverse incidents occurring that could lead to you incurring losses or liabilities. You may wish to consider how this is dealt with in contractual arrangements with third-party service providers.

9. Effective cyber risk management involves a cultural shift

Cyber risk is something which all individuals working in the aviation industry should bear in mind. Adopting good day-to-day cyber hygiene habits – such as always encrypting data belonging to customers – should become second-nature and an essential element of good working practices.

10. Cyber risk management strategies should be robustly tested

Without testing the strategies that are in place, it is not possible to determine how well cyber risks are being managed. This is reflected in guidance from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which has recommended conducting cyber stress-tests to determine the areas most susceptible to attack.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.