3rd February 2021 – Article written by Andy Swann, Strategic Campaign Lead

The focus of aviation security methods places importance on managing risks to keep aviation passengers and customers safe. There is often less focus on scrutinising and mitigating the potential security risks presented from aviation employees themselves - the insider threat. Once vetted, aviation employees are often afforded a trustworthy position that gives them near on unlimited access to critical aviation infrastructure, aircraft, and equipment. The insider could most certainly regularly observe security operations to spot vulnerabilities and weaknesses in existing systems and processes.

Although an act of terrorism may not be the most prevalent outcome of the insider threat, insider terrorism still warrants attention. If not purely because of the severity and impact of methods readily available via online sources. The unique knowledge and access of an aviation insider could significantly increase what is traditionally considered the normal risk of terrorism. The relatively recent history of foiled terrorist plots against the aviation industry is a stark warning that while not necessarily widespread, at this time this threat is still present.

Perhaps the most severe insider terrorist plot case study was in the UK in 2011. Rajib Karim, 31, a British Airways (BA) employee [in Newcastle] was found guilty of plotting to blow up an aircraft while working as a computer specialist with BA. In direct contact with Yemen-based radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Rajib Karim used his insider position as an IT expert with the airline to assist staging attacks on the west. Karim was convicted of terrorist offences by Woolwich crown court, the jurors ruled that Karim was.

  • Preparing for terrorist attacks.
  • Plotting to blow up an aircraft.
  • Sharing information of use [to Anwar al-Awlaki.
  • Offered to help financial or disruptive attacks on BA.
  • Gained a UK job to exploit terrorist purposes, the jurors ruled.

Covid-19 has been the biggest thing to hit the aviation industry since 9/11. One outcome is that 40% of the pre-Covid-19 aviation workforce no longer work in aviation. This has created a genuine security risk attributed to the outsider-insider threat. This phenomenon is something that was highlighted last week by Director, aviation security and cyber–International Air Transport Association (IATA) at the Passenger Terminal Conference. As we look to returning to 2019 flight passenger levels by approximately 2024/25 it would be reasonable to want every flight to be as safe as possible.

The Enspire Group of Enspire Solutions and Force Development Services provide a wide range of services and solutions that help clients mitigate against the consequences of such potential attacks thereby helping to save lives and reduce serious injuries.

Further reading

Are we doing enough to protect crowded places?

Insights 19 November 2020

Coyote® Unmanned Air System (UAS)

Insights 24 June 2021