News / Our digital society still needs to be protected by humans

Go to any major airport in the world and you will see the reassuring presence of the air traffic control tower in the distance. Inside will be the highly trained people we all put our trust in, surveying in 360 degrees everything happening out in the skies and on the ground.

However, at London City Airport that is all about to change as it moves operations to a fully digital air traffic control unit some 80 miles away in Hampshire. Giant UHD digital screens will be installed in the building which will give a fully realized 3D view of the increasingly popular City Airport back in East London. The new “tower” will come on stream in 2019.

The system is said to provide greater detail of the airfield than the human eye can determine. No less than 14 cameras will provide live high definition pictures via ultrafast fibre cables to NATS HQ in Swanick.

According to NATS, moving the ATC tower will provide efficiencies and a better level of service. There is little doubt that the technology will be world-class and provide effective, possibly better, coverage of the airport as it expands.

The question mark raised by many will be over any possible cyber attack on a fully digital system, and the catastrophic effect any interruption of the live feed would have.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Declan Collier, London City Airport’s chief executive, said he was “absolutely confident” the new system is safe from cyber attack.

“We are very confident that the systems we’re putting in place here are secure, they’re safe, they’re managed very well. We use the highest level of cyber security in order to protect our systems” he said.

No doubt NATS will have done everything that is humanly possible to ensure that this system is as well protected against any kind of attack.

As we move to a more digital environment across all industry sectors, it’s important that we step up cyber protection so we get the advantages that digital technology will bring to business and consumers.

As the ransomware attacks on the NHS last week showed, there is nothing more important than the resilience and continuity of our critical national infrastructure.

It’s worth reflecting on those NHS attacks for a second and how the hospitals coped.

A tweet by a NHS worker summed up the amazing spirit that the NHS called upon as it battled against the malware running through its networks. Here is an extract of its defiant message.

“To the clever cyber attackers, we are the NHS. We don’t crumble under pressure, we don’t shut up shop because of technical errors, we don’t ever give up. It’s business as usual.”

We should celebrate this. All those in security have one common enemy: criminals. It is them, not those they attack, that should be condemned. Well done to all those who kept our hospitals running.

Its shows that even in our increasingly digital age, human effort and fortitude will still get us through the worst crises.

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