Cyber Security In Aerospace and Defence

By Shirley O’Sullivan


The Aerospace and Defence industry continues to grow in scale with commensurate responsibility for keeping highly classified information safe. This makes it an exciting target for cyber criminals and consequently means that considerable resources are devoted to systems to keep this data safe. In fact, the cyber security spend in the industry is well into the billions. As cyber-attacks have increased in sophistication, the rate of investment has continued to rise. Governments and private organisations are investing more than ever before.


As governments and organisations continue to update and modify their military and defence capabilities with newer technology, the threat of being attacked by cyber criminals only increases and these governments and organisations need to strike a balance between advancing their technologies and mitigating any vulnerability to outside threats.

In the aerospace arena, the threats are more than simply financial, with technology, data, intellectual property, and insider information also prime targets. As several nations are investing billions in aviation and spaceflight technologies, they are aware that they are going to be increasingly targeted by cyber criminals. Indeed, many nations are looking to new technologies such as blockchain to help protect them. As an example, Lockheed Martin, one of the largest weapons suppliers in the world, entered into a partnership with Guardtime Federal to identify how best to integrate blockchain into their existing data systems. They are focused on preventing the manipulation of the advanced weapons technology and data they possess.

What Is Driving Growth?

The Aerospace and Defence industry is in the midst of a major transformation, the main drivers being technologies such as smart wearable military technologies, additive manufacturing, automation, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to improve capability options.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) :  Using AI and, machine learning technology, autonomous drones, vehicles, and robotics have become a reality. By taking on complex tasks that previously required human input, technologies have emerged that have the potential to save lives. These machines can process real-time data at great speed, enabling them to make decisions and predict outcomes with an accuracy and speed that vastly exceeds human processing. However, these new technologies also bring with them more potential access points for hackers or cyber criminals to exploit. This means that significant investment in cyber security is a necessity to enable this technology to thrive.

The Internet of Things (IoT) :  This technology has its foundation in the gathering of more data from more devices and data points. From a defence and military perspective, one of the key ways of obtaining a tactical advantage over the opposition is, and always has been, to gather more data.  With the explosion in IoT-enabled devices, the scope of data that can be gathered is reaching new heights, as defence organisations are able to connect their aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons systems, ships, and personnel to each other and share their data in real-time. Now as IoT, AI and edge computing environments are starting to go live, data volumes are set to become even more massive. The downside to this growth in data points and devices is that there are an increasing number of points in the digital landscape that are potentially vulnerable to cyber-attacks. These interconnected networks are easy targets for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and the spread of malware and infections at speed. Defence agencies are investing heavily to find ways of preventing such attacks in the future. Many will agree that all these factors could present a compelling business case for Aerospace and Defence organisations.

Challenges For The Future

The defence and aerospace sector is one of the most technologically advanced sectors and many organisations have been adopting and embracing digital technology in their operations for decades. The levels of complexity and volumes of data integrated into their systems, however, mean they are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The Aerospace and Defence industries are constantly developing with innovative technologies to enable the performance & efficiencies that deliver a strategic advantage, however to achieve this, they are often dependent on complex and highly distributed supply chains. This dependency increases systemic risk and creates the need for proactive and mature IT security strategies that can address future challenges, mitigate supply chain risks, and support delivery of assured capabilities.

One of the additional challenges is the interdependencies between the elements of the supply chain that pose a security challenge, particularly suppliers that operate business models based on ‘Offshored’ technical support. Many composite systems are accessible and even operated by multiple organisations. These systems are highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks and the supply chain is perhaps one of the key weaknesses overall from a security perspective. Aerospace and Defence Programme Directors need to ensure that their 3rd Party Security Assurance is sufficiently rigorous and that the standard of supply chain security requirements are checked to verify that they are consistently applied down to the smallest sub-contractor elements to help protect technology and programme information.

As the defence and aerospace industries continue to grow, a significant part of their strategy will be in determining how best to address the challenge of cyber-attacks. This will drive continued investment in cyber security products and services and means many innovative product and service providers are also likely to see increased growth

Delivering An Assured Aerospace or Defence Capability

Our Services have been specifically designed for Organisations involved in Defence & Aerospace programme delivery. Our own team of Certified Cyber Professional (CCP) Technical Delivery Specialists possess many years’ experience in supporting Aerospace and Defence programmes, which have included complex Milsatcom Programmes. We are therefore, well positioned in the industry to help deliver assured capability programmes, helping Programme Directors meet their transformation challenges with foresight and confidence.


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