Business students bring new ideas to aviation cyber security attack response

A student smiles as he gestures with his hands while holding a pen

Students displayed professionalism, critical thinking, and creative solutions in response to evolving cyber security attack scenarios.

Over a two-day hackathon workshop at Lancaster University Management School, teams from the MSc Digital Business, Innovation & Management (DBIM) programme dealt with attacks on the fictitious London South Western Airport.

They prepared a business case demonstrating how they would help the airport respond to immediate security threats and future proof the airport security operation.

The teams were guided by real-life London Heathrow experts, who informed them about the aviation sector cybersecurity landscape, a vast and complicated operational environment.

The teams’ efforts were well appreciated by the Heathrow team.

Studnets on the hackathon sit in a lecture theatre

“I’ve been very impressed; they’ve demonstrated some good structural thinking in terms of how the solutions are going to be delivered,” said Jeremy Parsons, Cyber Security Architect for Technology at Heathrow. “And I’ve been impressed with the level of detail and the thought that went into the questions, it showed real insightfulness in terms of what we’re doing and the challenges for the organisation.”

He added: “Technology is pervasive across almost every job in every industry and cyber security applies to every role and area you may work in, as well as applied to daily life.”

Cyber security attacks can come in the form of insider threats, aircraft system vulnerabilities, ransomware, and AI-based malware attacks. Organisations such as global airports face operational and technological challenges, including the integration of technology, outdated legacy systems, and supply chain risks.

Teams prepared their business cases, including a cyber incident response plan and recommendations for cybersecurity improvements, and pitched them to the industry expert panel. The panel marked each team and chose an overall winner (see picture at bottom of page).

The hackathon workshop has been run successfully for three years on the DBIM programme. It is co-designed by Dr Uzair Shah, DBIM Programme Director, industry partner Paul Senior, Director of Security at Fujitsu and his team, along with one of their industry partners.

“It’s good for us to see future talent development,” said Ellie Brown (below), Cyber Security Consultant at Fujitsu. “What stands out is how good they are, how they really take to the challenge, and how impressive their work is.

“They have a really good ability to be inquisitive, asking the right questions – they are really important skills for consultants to have, and despite a limited knowledge of the topic they’ve really embraced being creative with their solutions.”

Ellie Brown smiles as she talks to a room of students

Dr Shah added: “The workshop helps the students draw on their learning, interact with industry experts, and think about cyber security.

“This is an area we think is important for our DBIM graduates, one they can consider for future career opportunities, and the workshop helps with that future thinking and preparation for the world of work.”

The winning hackathon team with their prize certificates

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