Hackers are targeting airlines as never before, and this could affect your next flight. That’s the conclusion of a troubling new study of airline IT outages by Netscout, a provider of application and network performance management products.
Attacks against passenger air travel increased by more than 15,000% between 2017 and 2018, according to Netscout’s research.
That’s no decimal point error. 15,000%.
Why? Airlines are easier targets.
“Cybercriminals have traditionally concentrated attacks on internet service providers, telecoms, and cable operators,” says Hardik Modi, Netscout’s senior director for threat intelligence. “While those categories still represent prime targets, they are now relatively well protected”. Subsequently, cybercriminals are now targeting the enterprise market, including passenger air travel, with real venom.
Sungard Availability Services, a provider of IT production and recovery services, tracks the major airline IT outage incidents. It shows that their numbers steadily increasing.
Last year, the domestic airline industry had 10 major outages, the most since 2015, according to Sungard. It’s unknown what role, if any, cyberattacks played in these outages.
The trend appears to be accelerating in 2019. Southwest Airlines suffered a computer outage on Friday that temporarily grounded flights across the country. The airline said it suspended operations for about 50 minutes to ensure the performance of software systems that had been upgraded overnight. The airline also had a smaller outage in January that affected flights to and from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
In January, 27 Alaska Airlines flights were delayed after the airline suffered a power outage in Seattle.
The incidents trigger an avalanche of consumer complaints to my nonprofit advocacy organization.