Securing region's transport assets of paramount importance

23 March 2017

Cyber criminals and terrorists are innovating as quickly as their targets

Recent attacks in airport facilities in Europe and the heightened threats on the use of commercial planes to stage terror attacks underscore the need to continuously secure these facilities across the region.

The transport sector is probably the largest single focus of security spending by most governments going forward, particularly for older cities where the metro assets and even the airport facilities go back half a century old, or beyond.

While this scale of concern is not present in most countries in the region except in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, the march towards becoming a “smart city” nevertheless could pose a similar concern.

The quest to become one of the world’s smartest cities as soon as possible is putting extreme pressure on all government agencies to adopt new technologies, systems and processes to realise that goal.

The rapid growth in cities like Dubai and the relative absence of a cohesive urban and transport planning framework  in mots cities guarantee that the roads, regardless of the perennial road construction and widening works, will become increasingly congested unless a viable public transport network is put in place.

An unmanned aerial taxi service and other new forms of transportation - be it a driverless car or a Hyperloop – can potentially introduce unprecedented levels of efficiencies in transporting people and goods, and no doubt the command and control centres, which will support these assets, will be designed with security as a top priority. However, it is also a given that things that are not designed to break down sometimes do.

The top reasons for not wanting to try an unmanned aerial transport, for example, are related to safety and security. For example, which engineering and quality control standards were applied in the manufacture of the vehicle? Which regulatory body approved those standards? Who will control the flight from the ground? What qualifications will this person possess? What is the emergency response plan if something goes wrong during the trip? Other concerns include routes and the price of the trips, which are not as essential as those related to safety and security.

The increased case of cyber attacks globally as well as in the region means that individuals and organised criminal groups are innovating just as quickly as the owners and operators of these assets or indeed their technology partners. After all both players have nearly equal access to the public internet and other new technologies.

No doubt public transport assets including airports and aeroplanes will also remain among the most obvious targets by cyber criminals and  terrorists due to the high likelihood of being able to harm as many people at any given time who use or pass through these facilities, and the huge economic losses they could inflict on a country’s tourism or hospitality sector.

Protecting these assets requires a very high level of vigilance, and indeed security-related budgets, among government and private enterprises alike, over the long-term.

As the digitalisation of infrastructure increases, owners and operators must be increasingly aware of the emerging risks from hacking and cyberattacks. In an exclusive MEED Live! Broadcast, MEED looks at the risks and strategies for ensuring cyber security. Register here for the webinar


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