Cyber attacks loom as aviation threat in soon-to-be $1 trillion overall exposureNews / DistributionBy Nick Vivion | December 8, 2014Share This article was originally published on While the media focuses on certain system breaches and other cyber attacks, global insurance provider Allianz has signaled a reminder of the vulnerability of inter-operable airline systems in its latest global aviation report. The overarching reality that growing fleet values and passenger volumes will soon lead to over $1 trillion in exposure for the aviation industry.The report, which is available in its entirety here, looks at the overall state of safety in the global aviation business. This is especially relevant, given that safety is top-of-mind for many travelers after the many fatal airline accidents in 2014.The ongoing media coverage of cyber attacks also raises the profile of potential breaches of air traffic control systems, airline systems, and mission critical in-aircraft technologies. From the report: New generation aircraft are facing an increased threat due to the more prevalent use of data networks, data uplinks, and downlinks, computer systems onboard, aircraft control navigation systems, environmental systems, propulsion systems, and control surface systems.Share this quote When asked about the biggest risks to the industry, respondents to Allianz's Risk Barometer 2014 picked the following risks as most pressing.Certainly cyber attacks are not number one, but they are matched by fire, pollution and terrorism as core risks; all definitely on the radar for the aviation industry, alongside such longstanding challenges as natural incidents, increase competition, and overall landscape.Technological innovation is also a risk for aviation - especially for poorly managing technological change without adequately training staff or accounting for potential failures (such as the "Nightmareliner" debacle). There are also risks when it comes to being too slow to innovate, and lose potential competitive advantages like cheaper fuels or more efficient operations.The report itself actually tracks the history of aviation safety back to 1952, which is an interesting read for anyone interested in how technology has improved aviation overall. Despite the high-profile incidents - there were 10 non-natural catastrophic incidents in 2014 - flying continues to be the safest way to travel.In fact, the fatality rates has actually not kept up as air miles flown increased, meaning that flying is safer even as more people take to the air. By 2016, IATA estimates that there will be 3.6 billion passengers - or an increase of 28% over 2013 numbers.Technology has improved this dramatically, with deaths per million passengers falling from 133 in the 1962-1971 range to 2 in the 2001-2013 range.From airline navigation systems to engine technology to overall improvements in construction abilities and related aviation innovation, the worldwide annual fatal accident rate has plummeted.Most technologies outside of aircraft construction are related to reducing human error, which still causes an estimated 70% of aviation accidents. These accidents are not just mid-air, but also on-the-ground communication errors that result in non-fatal-yet-expensive ground collisions.Aviation safety also depends on training and available technology, so there are vast regional differences in safety.Yet even that graphic can be misleading, because effective implementation doesn't necessarily mean elimination of risk - the report found that 88% of fatal accidents occurred in Africa and Asia, with zero fatal accidents in Oceania.Technological innovations that are improving the overall safety of aviation include: Electronic flight bags: Reduces weight and ensures a seamlessly updated flight manual shared across devices.Controller Pilot Data Link Communications: basically a text message system between pilots and controllers that will provide a visual text communication stream (like SMS) to prevent misunderstandings via voice transmission and poor connections.Floor lighting: Fully installed in late 1980, complete floor lighting improves evacuation during emergencies.Cockpit gauges: Advanced instruments in the cockpit have given pilots a more complete understanding of the aircraft, preventing issues from festering silently.Fly-By-Wire: This has disconnected control of the airplane from hydraulics, simulating more of a gaming environment via the electronic signals sent to control the aircraft. This is far less prone to failure.Seating: Seats can now withstand a 16g force, dramatically improved from a seat that could only withstand the pressure of 6 times gravity back in middle of last century.Fail-Safe Design: By using industrial design procedures that allow a portion of a plane to fail without taking out the entire machine, manufacturers have improved overall safety.Share this quote Dive into the global aviation history and safety report here.