VT Miltope taking inflight connectivity security seriously

A passenger using an iPad on an aircraft.At the recent APEX Expo in Long Beach, California, VT Miltope showcased its nMAP2 router technology and RazorSecure cybersecurity solutions for the aviation industry.

Interest in inflight cybersecurity has been growing steadily, especially after the story of a passenger who claimed to take control of an aircraft via its inflight entertainment system made it into the mainstream media.

Even if there was little truth in the story it still caused ructions.

The issue is getting even more attention due to the rapid development of new wireless access point systems, such as VT Miltope’s Cognitive Hotspot Technology (CHT).

Built into its nMAP2 router, CHT improves the aircraft Wi-Fi system and increases connectivity performance

VT Miltope connectivity performance

VT Miltope logoA significant wireless challenge within the airplane cabin is RF congestion in a crowded wireless environment, with hundreds of client devices competing for connectivity to the network.

VT Miltope says CHT optimises network performance, making a WAP smart by sharing information gathered about the wireless environment and making “jointly-intelligent” decisions.

Some of the features provided by the nMAP2 with CHT are Automatic Channel Assignment (ACA), Advanced Load Balancing with QoS (ALB), Smart Roaming (SR), Automatic Failure Recovery (AFR), Location-Based Services (LBS), Interference Minimiser (IM), Advanced User Interface (AUI), and Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS).

With CHT the VT Miltope nMAP2 WAPs are able to talk to each other, share information gathered about the wireless environment, and make intelligent decisions to optimise the in-cabin wireless network, even moving connections from one WAP to another to improve throughput – automatic load balancing.

These developments help with streaming video and content loading, two of the most demanding connectivity applications that involve high data requirements.

But all this is worth nothing if your network is at risk from hackers.

RazorSecure

The RazorSecure Edge tool provides continuous auditing of data being passed over the inflight network.

Alex Cowan, RazorSecure CEO, said: “The industry average to detect a data breach is about 180 days. That just isn’t good enough for an aircraft in flight.

“RazorSecure provides continuous adaptive monitoring of potential threats and prevents potentially costly data breaches.”

A piece of legislation driving this is the EU directive on the security of Networks and Information Systems, known as the NIS Directive.

The NIS Directive aims to raise levels across the EU of the overall security and resilience of network and information systems.

The deadline for EU member states to bring the directive into domestic legislation is 9 May 2018 – and there are big financial penalties for companies who fall foul of the law.

“The fines for companies that don’t follow the NIS Directive can be huge,” said Cowan. “They could be up to four percent of a company’s worldwide revenue.

Data breach

“A minor data breach could cost them a fine of up to two percent of worldwide revenue, and this could be as simple as a breach that they didn’t report in the required 72 hours.

“Passive detection of data breaches doesn’t go far enough. Airlines need a system that continuously monitors how inflight Wi-Fi networks are being used and detects and corrects problems immediately.”

The RazorSecure Delta software is being incorporated into the new VT Miltope MAP3 access points in 2018, although the company is also intending to incorporate it into its earlier nMAP2 access points.

“We use machine learning to ‘know’ what is normal for a device,” said Cowan.

“We can then predict what is normal for the future. We can also use group monitoring. That is, we can see if normal usage, patterns and trends on one access point is different to the others.

“This could be that one access point has been misconfigured or could identify a hacking attack. We can work with the airlines to make sure any problem is put right.”

The RazorSecure Edge solution also provides auditing and network mapping. It can also conduct vulnerability scanning and performance monitoring.

“Data security is a big learning process for airlines. Firewalls are OK, but modern security requires a system that can adapt. And many airlines are not aware of the NIS Directive and haven’t thought through how to secure systems on their aircraft,” Cowan said.

“The earlier you can stop a potential attack the better. If you can stop it immediately you can prevent and limit further damage.

“Ultimately, the question is ‘how much could one day of disruption cost an airline?’,” Cowan concluded.

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