Education helps Miami International Airport reduce threat of 20,000 cyber attacks a day

By Danny Palmer
20 Jun 2013 View Comments
Miami International Airport director of information systems and telecomunications Maurice Jenkins

A programme of educating staff about cyber threats and updating hardware has helped Miami International Airport counter cyber threats, resulting in hack attempts dropping from a previous figure of 20,000 a day.

That's what Maurice Jenkins, director of information systems and telecommunications at Miami International Airport – one of the busiest airports in North America – told Computing during an interview at the 2013 Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels.

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"We do a lot of training and education in regards to understanding the impact of cyber security and cyber threats. Within the training we educate staff on what phishing and spear phishing is because folks don't realise what can actually happen and how you can compromise the organisation. So, education first internally with staff," he said.

"Then there's certain things within our policy infrastructure we just don't do, just to make sure we can protect the system, because all it takes is one then once you've been hacked, once you've been compromised, what do you do?"

Jenkins added that Miami International's work with SITA also helps ensure it is protected against cyber threats.

"One of the things the SITA product in our network infrastructure ensures is that we are PCI Security Council ready, and PCI compliant in a lot of areas to make sure we can protect customer data, especially on the credit card side of the house," he said.

In addition to education, Jenkins told Computing that Miami International has recently spent big on upgrading its systems in order to ensure it is as well protected against hacking and other cyber threats as possible.

"Cyber security, we treat it with intense pressure," said Jenkins. "We've just spent several million dollars upgrading our hardware because at one point we were going through almost 20,000 hack attempts a day, intrusion attempts and now that number has dropped significantly."

However, Jenkins is far from complacent about the potential threat of cyber crime, and insists that he needs to remain completely ready for what attacks might occur.

"You're only as good as your last performance, so for us it's being diligent, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

"We're out there involved with several committees in regards to cyber threats and cyber terrorism; we talk to law enforcement agencies, we're on boards and panels with them; and we're just getting feedback from everything, being on the lookout for threats and being aware of the do's and don'ts."

Jenkins signalled social media as a key don't, suggesting the use of Facebook, Twitter and so on by staff at Miami International is very much frowned upon.

"Very few individuals should do that because you're divulging and exposing yourself," he said. "You think you're doing a good thing but at the same time you're putting yourself as well as your organisation at risk. You really, really are."

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