EBACE Convention News

Rockwell Collins Highlights Cabin Cybersecurity

 - May 23, 2018, 2:00 AM

As public attention increases on cybersecurity, connectivity services and equipment provider Rockwell Collins (Booth V71) assures clients that it has long taken steps to guard against threats. But at the same time, the company advises passengers must be aware of what they are bringing on board the aircraft.

“Obviously there was a lot of conversation going on in the aviation industry, and how secure the links are,” said Joel Otto, v-p of strategy and business. Rockwell Collins has long had a heritage of onboard platforms, Otto said, adding, the underpinning of all these efforts is cybersecurity. Everything must be in a safe environment, and the topic has become sharply in focus throughout the aviation community. “We’re very involved in that.”

Principal marketing manager Lupita Wilson added that the company continues to receive a growing number of inquiries from clients about the security of their aircraft as attention has intensified on the issue.

“Cybersecurity is nothing new to us,” she said. “In the private business jet market, we actually have that as part of our whole foundation…of what we do every day.”

She noted that others in the industry discuss the need to add technologies and software. They take an approach that “you've got to add this, you've got to protect yourself by bolting things on. But for us, the foundation of our network is being able to deliver the data from Point A to Point B secured. We operate under the principle of hyper-vigilance.”

Through its operations center, Rockwell Collins monitors data around the around the clock, 365 days of the year, of what goes up to and returns from the aircraft, continually checking from any potential threats. Company specialists track to make sure nothing goes through the network that is a cause of concern, she said. Further, Rockwell Collins masks private IP addresses of the passengers with to provide an additional lawyer of security, she said, adding, these lines are all channeled through a single pipeline with an assigned IP address.

The company constantly evolves its responses to new threats and is continually adapting its as security needs change and more systems come online at faster speeds. “As more and more people get connect, there’s more threats coming on board,” she said, “There are things that we add in terms of the visual things we check to make sure it's secured. It’s constantly monitoring and making changes to the threat analytics we use,” Wilson said.

One misconception is the potential intermingling of cockpit and cabin systems. She noted they are separate systems often using different connectivity services. A passenger would not have access to the cockpit systems, she said, and nor can anything on one of their devices find its way into the cockpit systems.

But in the cabin, she added, “the security does start from the passenger. We can secure the connection from the ground to the aircraft, but a heavy part of it relies on the passenger—making sure they are educated about what they bring on board the aircraft and how they connect, making sure that a [personal computer] has antivirus in place, [and] making sure that they are smart about what they are opening.” Just as they would while at home, passengers onboard business aircraft need to aware of suspect or phishing emails that could have embedded virus,

In addition to the portable electronic devices, Wilson said aircraft owners and operators must remain aware of the need to stay on top of router passwords and to change them periodically.

But beyond cabin connectivity, Otto notes that Rockwell Collins takes a system-wide approach to cybersecurity reaching into expertise throughout the company. As part of its work within the nuclear power industry, Rockwell Collins has developed new protocols under mandate from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The company provides physical security for about 70 percent of nuclear power plants in the U.S. Some of this expertise has transferred some of the technologies and lessons learned over to the aviation side, Otto said. “We have built out a capability now and we can take from [the nuclear] industry and move it across into other areas.”