With terrorist groups actively seeking ways to defeat or circumvent aviation security, the 25th AVSEC World event was timely, examining in detail the principles that could underline a robust industry response.

Speaking on a panel on Terrorism and Radicalization, Paul Fujimura, US TSA Assistant Administrator, Office of Global Strategies, warned: “Terrorism continues to evolve and change. There are new actors appearing and people are being radicalized through social media and the Internet.

“The lone actors are harder to catch and difficult to disrupt,” he continued. “We are also seeing a shrinking timeline from when they are first recruited and then radicalized, to actually doing an attack on a self-initiated basis. There is also the insider threat. The insider can be anyone. Air crew, maintenance crew, baggage handlers. They have access and knowledge.”

The platform for successfully responding to such threats is the consensus reached at the 39th lCAO Assembly, which agreed on the need to fast track a global aviation security strategy. “The new plan will create a dependable and co-operative framework that allows states to move in line with industry and other law enforcement stakeholders,” said ICAO’s Secretary General, Dr. Fang Liu.

“All of us here know we face challenges integrating the responsibilities and actions of the local, regional, and international enforcement and security services,” she continued. “The new plan will help to define the roles and responsibilities of all the agencies and it will lead to more progressive and coordinated aviation security enforcements.”

Dr. Liu revealed a draft of this new plan will be made available in May 2017 with a view to making it available for consideration by the council shortly after that. 

There was also much talk of the need for a security culture. Angela Gittens, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) pointed out that “expensive technology” is not always the solution. 

“Vigilance and security awareness are our greatest defences,” she said. “All staff should have knowledge about how to detect, take note, and report suspicious behavior and or items.” ACI’s practical solutions to improve airport security includes reducing crowds and queues, patrolling and surveillance, and intelligence sharing.

Technology was the focus of many discussions and speeches, however, giving rise to talk of cybersecurity. IATA’s Director General Alexandre de Juniac said that no single company has the capability to beat the subculture of hackers, especially those who may be well-funded and backed by political agendas.

“Airline systems are secure, but they are not without risk,” he noted. “Even IATA gets about 500,000 suspicious web flows a year. Being successful 499,999 times is not good enough. We need nimble layers of protection and advanced capabilities on detection. These must be powered by intelligence and information sharing. Co-operation with government and across the industry is essential.”

Even a mild success for the hackers could risk revenues and reputation for the airline, noted IATA’s Director General.