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The Forgotten Threat to the Aviation Industry

The Forgotten Threat to the Aviation Industry Homeland Security TodayA recent article in the Economist highlighted the need for airport security to evolve. Instead of focusing on the threatening items themselves, attention should shift to those who intend to perpetrate these actions. But where, how, and what should airlines focus on when seeking to identify potential human threats? One of the biggest threats to the aviation industry lies within. Airports spend enormous sums of money on physical security – including metal detectors and body scanners for passengers– yet often forget about the damage their own employees can cause.

 

It is costly to the aviation industry to have criminal and disgruntled employees in their company. Since 2002, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has had to let go of over 500 officers for stealing from airline passengers. The insider threat is not limited to theft. In December 2014, two airport workers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport smuggled 153 guns over 20 flights.

 

A more rigorous selection criteria can curb the number of employees with criminal intent working in the aviation industry. Some individuals are “rotten eggs;” they seek employment with malicious intent and criminal aspirations. These individuals are often detectable, and it is possible to filter them out before they become part of the aviation workforce. The aviation industry needs to think as much about the characteristics they do not want to see in employees, as much as those they do.

 

But sometimes it is too late. Some employees will manage to pass through the net, and then bide their time until ready to act callously, causing potentially devastatingly incidents threating the security of the airport. Many airline employees have close to unlimited access to all parts of their airport, which creates an unquestionable threat to the aviation industry.

 

Consequently, the aviation industry needs to broaden its horizon and think about how to detect threat-indicators before and after the selection process. They need to determine which red flags to look for in their baggage handlers, pilots, and others. Are they attempting to access areas that are not pertinent to their work? Do they show signs that their circumstances have changed, and now, for $100, they are willing to bring criminal contraband through airport security for more menacing individuals?

 

One of the biggest factors that the aviation industry neglects is looking for signs that employees have lost their spark, or integrity. Oftentimes, employees become jaded and angry during their tenure with the airline, causing them to seek revenge and retribution for what has occurred. In these cases, the employee has become a threat in a way that the screening process did not foresee. While the disenchanted employee may have entered the company bright-eyed and bushy tailed, numerous factors, including the management and culture of the airline, may leave them browbeaten, deflated, and disengaged from their work.

 

In many cases, this employee will lose interest in their job, and show signs of not caring about the work they are doing. The apathetic attitude may result in bags getting lost and damaged as just one out of many possible results. However, the real danger emerges when the employee feels that they need to rectify a wrong through revenge. The threat then transitions from unhelpful, but benign to an active, potentially devastating threat. The vengeful worker may utilize sabotage, fraud, and a disregard for corporate compliance to hurt their employer.

 

Psychologists have dubbed this phenomenon ‘employee disenchantment.’ In this scenario, the employee’s tolerance towards the company deteriorates progressively over time, until a tipping point is reached. The company or manager has gone one step too far. Then, as with the criminal opportunist, the employee will bide their time to find the precise moment and manner in which to exact their revenge.

 

The cause and solution in this case lies with the management. What we deem ‘management swamps,’ cluster in the organization, fostering disenchantment in employees, and increasing the risk of a retributive act. The key to reducing the threat is to identify and rectify where disenchantment is growing to a dangerous level.

 

It has been said that the greatest commodity to organizations are their employees, yet this also represents their greatest source of liability. The insider threat has become one of the biggest security challenges facing organizations, and the aviation industry is no different. Despite rigorously screening passengers to detect external threats, this sector neglects to cast the spotlight within their own organizations.

 

The solution to the insider threat in the aviation industry involves a new approach. Airlines are used to implementing technological procedures to reduce threats and increase security. However, computers and cybersecurity infrastructure alone cannot solve the internal threat. Employees are not machines, but instead possess emotions and motivations.

 

Reducing the threat from within involves a two-pronged attack: stopping malicious employees before they enter and identifying how the industry is instilling resentment within its employees. It will be no easy ride, but the results will help the aviation industry evolve for the better.

 

Luke Treglown is an Analyst and Marketing Executive with JTiP. Luke’s background is in Psychology, with a specialty in scientific enquiry to understanding human risk, capability, and threat in an organizational and intelligence setting. With JTiP, Luke offers insight into how organizations can reduce disenchantment and the insider threat within their workforce.

 

 

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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