In recent decades, the international aviation community has started to transition away from relying on traditional air transport systems such as radar and ground-based air traffic control. With the development and adoption of digital communication systems and internet-connected aircraft, airlines worldwide may soon enjoy the advantages of wireless connectivity and more precise satellite monitoring. However, with these modern benefits also come the increased potential for malicious attacks from cyberhackers operating remotely in the shadows of cyberspace. Though current international aviation treaties like the Beijing Convention may outlaw cyber hijackings, the Convention and existing aviation law lack the enforcement power necessary to hold hacker-terrorists and their host nations accountable. Without accountability, there is little to deter cyberterrorists from exploiting aviation’s technological vulnerabilities. In order to effectively address these new cyber threats and prevent a potential cyber 9/11, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the global community should consider adopting enforcement mechanisms such as universal jurisdiction to deter malicious cyber activities. Regardless of the deterrent mechanism, the global aviation industry as well as aviation lawmakers must implement stronger international standards and practices that hold malicious actors accountable for cyberattacks against the aviation industry. Ultimately, lawmakers, organizations, and private corporations must adapt and work together to meet the safety needs of an evolving world and aviation industry.
Laura K. Ashdown, Preventing a Cyber-9/11: How Universal Jurisdiction Could Protect International Aviation in the Digital Age, 84 J. Air L. & Com. 3 (2019).