Cyber Security for Voice Communications in Air Traffic Control

Providing Enhanced Cyber Security for Voice Communications in Air Traffic Control and Air Battlespace Management

Jun 19, 2019

Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace in commercial and defense sectors, however, in recent years their vulnerability to potential impacts from cyber security threats has risen significantly. With new advancements in technologies, come new risks.

Aviation and defense stakeholders must stay vigilant when overseeing the systems that manage our skies and our security. Rigid security standards are the key to counter and prevent potentially dangerous threats introduced by evolving technology. When nations across the globe search for increased security solutions to protect their networks and communication systems, careful consideration is given to what standards they follow and how they implement these standards. This is often a daunting challenge: What security standards should they follow to ensure the safety of their passengers and airspace?

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) is a global leader in identifying and assessing potential cyber threats. They know they do not operate in isolation, and as such, established a dedicated division that provides technical guidance to industry. This ensures industries, like military and commercial ATC, have access to the required security knowledge. Labeled the Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIGs), each guide outlines established standards that can eliminate potential risks. But, it doesn’t stop there.

In addition to the DoD guidelines produced, a process of thorough and rigorous testing is also available. This process, called the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC), provides further technology compliance and conformance; to which, few technologies meet.

Harris’ Voice Over Internet Protocol Communications Enterprise (VOICE) not only complies to but exceeds both DoD STIG and JITC testing, ensuring safe and reliable communications for both commercial ATC and defense aviation. The system is regularly tested and updated to insure the highest level of safety for defense and civil communications. The VOICE product also includes several features that enable use in specialized multi-domain environments commonly known as ‘Red/Black’.

Red-Black Multi-domain Communication Environment

Red/black allows an operator to communicate in an environment where multiple levels of security are present. Each communication network is completely isolated from the other and only approved messages can be sent across the interface protected via multiple individual security layers. Coupled with a Secure operator interface unit (SOIU), redundant connections are used to provide secure, dependable voice communications allowing operators to broadcast over secure and unsecure radio links.

As cyber threats develop and evolve, it is vital that technology providers remain vigilant and continue to deliver cutting-edge solutions that meet stringent security requirements and ensure aviation safety is maintained. As defense and aviation markets advance, the global threat of cyber disruption will remain. However, cultivating strong partnerships and safeguarding standards like STIGs and JITC ensure Harris can meet and exceed the security demands of tomorrow’s technology—today.