Last month ICAO convened Security Week 2023: AVSEC & CYBERSEC with 673 participants from 84 States and 11 international organizations registered for the week-long event. The theme for the week, “Aviation Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience,” held particular significance. Air traffic is projected to approach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, the development might be exciting, but it heightens the urgency for the global aviation sector to prioritize safety and security.
This year’s event, which was held from 23 to 27 October 2023, went beyond its traditional focus on the prevention of acts of unlawful interference to address the resilience of global aviation’s critical infrastructure against past, new, and emerging threats. Discussions focussed on security-related topics such as aviation cybersecurity, unmanned and remotely piloted aircraft systems, and major disruptions caused by airport breaches. ICAO Security Week also stressed the importance of implementing new technologies and innovative solutions, as well as the urgent need for enhanced cooperation among various government agencies in this regard.
In his virtual opening address, ICAO Council President, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, underscored the critical role ICAO Security Week played in bringing together leaders and key decision makers to discuss the diverse and complex security challenges facing global aviation and to explore the most effective solutions to address them. He invited participants to reflect on the complexity of the landscape of the discussions before them and encouraged them to share their perspectives to help create the robust frameworks that ensure the safety, security and resilience of air travel.
He noted that delegates’ active participation and knowledge-sharing could foster dialogue on ways to develop effective and adaptable aviation security policies that align with the rapidly changing security landscape within which global aviation operates. He also urged participants to take advantage of the exhibition and numerous side events and workshops that were held alongside ICAO Security Week and told them ICAO is eager to consider their insight on how we can assist with coordinating advances in the Aviation Security and Cybersecurity fields more rapidly, so that the benefits can be seen much sooner.
The opening session of ICAO Security Week was also addressed by Ms. Lisa J. Setlakwe, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, at Transport Canada, and Dr. Bader S. Alsagri, Representative of Saudi Arabia on the ICAO Council and Chairperson of its Aviation Security Committee.
The event featured several sessions on a wide range of topics. The first session, titled “Leaders Plenary: Aviation Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience,” was moderated by the Director of ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau (ATB), Mr. Mohamed Rahma, who was joined by Ms. Poppy Khoza, Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa; His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cybersecurity, United Arab Emirates; Mr. David P. Pekoske, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration of the United States; Mr. Weixiong Chen, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED); and Ms. Mona Björklund, Director of Policy Coordination at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport. These senior leaders addressed the resilience of civil aviation infrastructure against various threats, including emerging ones, with a focus on new technologies and enhanced cooperation among government agencies.
ICAO’s Deputy Director of Aviation Security and Facilitation, Mr. Sylvain Lefoyer, moderated a session on “Aviation – Pivotal Piece of the National Critical Infrastructure Puzzle,” during which experts explored how the civil aviation sector can contribute to counterterrorism frameworks and interagency cooperation at the broader national level.
Mr. Pascal Andrei, Chief Security Officer of Airbus, set the stage for a number of sessions in an opening address that gave an overview of the aviation cybersecurity threats landscape and stressed ICAO’s critical role in addressing these challenges.
In a session titled “Charting the Skies: Crafting Effective Aviation Security Policy for a Safer Future,” experts delved into the complex landscape of aviation security policy and addressed the challenges faced by governments and industry stakeholders in creating robust frameworks that ensure the safety and resilience of air travel.
“Aviation Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection” was the focus of discussions during another session. Aviation Cybersecurity is an integral part of a wider ecosystem that covers the protection of digital and physical infrastructure at all levels, requires coordination at both regulatory and operational levels. The panel shared experiences from States and stakeholders in this context.
During a session on “Flight Safety and Security in Turbulent Times: Navigating Conflict Zones,” panellists examined the best practices in assessing and mitigating risks to civil aviation operations in conflict situations. The third edition of the ICAO Risk Assessment Manual for Civil Aircraft Operations Over or Near Conflict Zones (Doc 10084), which was published on the first day of ICAO Security Week, and the work developed by the global Safer Skies Consultative Committee were referenced as existing guidance.
In a session on “Getting the Human Part of our Security Systems Right,” experts highlighted why human factors and human performance considerations are critical to the design of security processes, procedures, and systems.
This year’s Security Week recognised the role of key stakeholders in managing sectoral risks when Ms. Sonia Hifdi, Chief of the ICAO’s Security Policy Section, delivered remarks to mark the beginning of “Industry Day.” In the first of two sessions led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), addressing “Integrated Risk Management (IRM): Preparing for a Future State of Industry Who Face and Own Risks, Known and Unknown,” experts highlighted why human factors and human performance considerations are critical to the design of security processes, procedures, and systems. They also discussed the benefits of the IRM approach, a well-known process in civil aviation which encompasses the identification, assessment, and prioritization of potential hazards and risks, ultimately guiding the development and implementation of strategies for control and mitigation.
The second IATA session discussed “Aviation Cybersecurity: Modern Risk Management Approaches to Safe and Secure Digital Innovation and Aircraft Airworthiness.” This panel analyzed modern risk management approaches and discussed the work being done by industry stakeholders such as IATA and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association (ICCAIA).
Airports Council International (ACI) also led a session on “The Perfect Duo – Technology and Human Elements: Improving Security at Airports,” with the panel delving into the consequences of emerging technologies, the influence of mental health on employees, and the need for diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforces in ensuring efficient, secure, and compassionate security operations.
The final session on Industry Day, on “Leveraging Open-Source Intelligence for Aviation Security Risk Assessment,” moderated by Mr. Lefoyer, had experts who shared insights on Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT), including data, information and analyses which can help aviation authorities and operators improve their risk assessment and management processes.
There was also a session on “Harmonizing Risk Management in Safety and Security: towards an Integrated Risk Management?”. This panel, kickstarted by opening remarks delivered by Mr. Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital Technology at the Government of Québec, discussed the evolution of Management Systems, inspired by the established Quality Management Systems framework, and how this has introduced key systems to the aviation sector, including Safety Management Systems (SMS), Security Management Systems (SecMS), and Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). It also analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of these choices, from a regulatory and operational standpoint.
In a session on “Advancing Aviation Security: Synergy between digital identity and Cybersecurity,” experts weighed in on the relationship between digital identity, cybersecurity, and aviation security, exploring the synergy between these interconnected domains in enhancing the resilience of airport and airline operations against emerging threats. Additionally, experts provided insight into the evolving landscape of aviation security, shedding light on ongoing developments in passenger safety, cargo security, and the enhancement of system interoperability.
A session focused on air cargo explored the topic: “From the other Side of the World to Your Door: How Innovative Security Solutions Keep Global Trade Protected.” During this panel, experts explored a range of innovative methods and technologies for implementing security measures, bearing in mind the need to ensure the uninterrupted flow of the global supply chain.
On drones, experts shared insights on state-of-the-art technologies, detection systems, and complementary defensive strategies that seamlessly integrate with current security frameworks. These insights were shared within the context of the topic: “WANTED: Innovative Solutions to Protect Airports from the Misuse of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).”
In a session themed “Aviation Under Siege: Understanding the Impact of Disruptions to Airports and Airlines Operations,” experts from various fields, including aviation security, law enforcement, cybersecurity, and civil rights advocacy, shed light on this emerging trend and discussed strategies for safeguarding the functioning of airports amidst growing civil dissent and cyber threats.
The last session focused on “Exploring the Power of AI: the Potential to Support Aviation Security.” The session delved into the practical uses of AI within the security sector while also addressing the legal, ethical, and policy challenges that these applications may pose. The panel also drew valuable insights from the application of AI in other industries.
Throughout ICAO Security Week, delegates actively participated in discussions by posing questions during the panel sessions and engaging with a variety of partners and experts. On the sidelines of the event, ICAO hosted an event titled “Safeguarding Skies: The critical link between UN Counter-Terrorism and Aviation Security commitments.” During this event, representatives from UNCTED, UNOCT, and IMO explored the critical link between counter-terrorism and aviation security. They highlighted the importance of aligning efforts, emphasizing the need to establish information sharing mechanisms that support risk assessments.
This event provided a platform for international and regional organizations, national civil aviation authorities, and counter-terrorism authorities to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices in combating terrorism and protecting civil aviation critical infrastructure. It also aimed to foster greater understanding and commitment among the aviation security community to implement and enforce UN counter-terrorism commitments and bolster collective efforts to ensure safe skies.
Other side events included Cybersecurity Culture Workshop; Human Factors Workshop; Security Culture Workshop: Training and Assistance Products; and Preparing for the Unpredictable: Conflict Zone Risk Management Tabletop Exercise.
Delivering an address during the closing session of the event, the President of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Sultanate of Oman, His Excellency Eng. Naif Ali Hamad Al Abri noted that the theme for this year’s event resonates with the urgent need to strengthen global aviation’s ecosystems against changing risks and uncertainties. “Aviation unquestionably demands our unwavering dedication to its protection and resilience, thus crafting effective aviation security policies stands as a pillar in shaping a safer future for both passengers and industry stakeholders,” he added. “Oman has embraced modern risk management practices, including conflict zone analysis, risk assessment, and robust risk mitigation strategies.”
He highlighted Oman’s dedication to Cybersecurity and infrastructure protection, which is manifested through the country’s collaborative partnerships with international organizations and its efforts to foster regional and global dialogue aimed at developing innovative security systems to safeguard aviation systems from potential misuse.
“Keeping these principles in mind, it brings me immense pleasure to announce that the Sultanate of Oman will proudly host the ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium 2024 in Muscat, from the 15-17 October 2024,” he declared. “Accordingly, I extend a warm invitation to all of you who have participated this week to join us for AVSEC 2024.”
In his closing remarks, ICAO Secretary General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, noted that “I would like to thank Mr. Al Abri for his closing remarks, and we are delighted and grateful that the State of Oman will host the first ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium organized outside of our Headquarters, in October 2024.”
“I would also like to thank all the moderators, speakers, as well as the facilitators of the technical workshops, who have contributed to the discussions and made this ICAO Security Week 2023 such a great success.”
Commending States’ Representatives to ICAO and the ICAO Council, delegates from States, international organizations, and from the industry, especially the industry organizations that helped ICAO to organize the Industry Day, Secretary General Salazar reiterated some of the key messages that were delivered across a wide range of topics during the course of the week.
“I wish you all safe travels home, and hope to see you again for our next Global Symposium AVSEC2024 in Oman,” he concluded.
If you were unable to attend the event in person, or want to watch some of the sessions again, ICAO is sharing all sessions on ICAO TV.
About the authors
This article was written by the following staff members in the Aviation Security Policy Section of ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau:
Ms. Hifdi Sonia, Chief, Aviation Security Policy Section
Ms. Agnieszka Maja Mizgalska, AVSEC Technical Officer
Ms. Lambropoulos Panagiota, Technical and Programme Associate
Ms. Domingues Anna Caroline, Aviation Security Programme Assistant