2021 Airport Security Predictions: Physical and Cybersecurity Trends


By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com

Throughout the pandemic, airports have been one of the hardest-hit sectors. Traveling by plane is far from where it used to be in terms of physical and digital security. In fact, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), 324 million passengers traveled by plane in 2020, compared to 824 million passengers in 2019.

However, this dip will be temporary. Vaccines are rolling out slowly to residents in the United States, and 2021 will see the travel industry working its way back to where it was. This journey, though, requires some physical security and cybersecurity changes.

The following trends are the most likely to impact airports this year.

1. More Funding for Cybersecurity

While the pandemic most obviously affects physical health, COVID-19 also brings cybersecurity threats and challenges. For instance, throughout 2020, professionals saw 4,000 cyberattacks daily.

These kinds of threats put private data at risk. In airports, cybercriminals can obtain financial information and other private data from travelers if they can reach the airport’s network.

Research from 2019 showed that airports require a balance of security approaches to be safe for everyone. This approach includes cybersecurity. Moving forward from here, airports are likely to channel more funding to cybersecurity protocols.

These practices include hiring more IT staff and implementing more secure networks to protect staff, travelers, and vendors.

2. PPE Is Here to Stay

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a reliable way to protect individuals and keep the virus from spreading. Masks, gloves, and physical barriers are all necessities when it comes to public, crowded spaces like airports.

Even after people get their vaccines, PPE is going to stick around for a while. With mass vaccinations and herd immunity, public facilities like airports will want to ensure there can be no spread of even individual COVID-19 cases.

In October 2020, the TSA began installing more acrylic barriers at John F. Kennedy International Airport. This installation is a good sign that physical health protections are here to stay for the long run.

3. Top-Down Cybersecurity

The approach to digital protection is going to be a collective effort. It will start at the top, with airport cybersecurity professionals, and work its way down to the individual traveler.

As stated, airports must focus on funding cybersecurity efforts, from encryption to data breach notification processes. However, they must also focus on training and educating everyone in the building. Vendors, agents, and security personnel are all going to be working with sensitive data. Each member must have the proper training and systems in place to protect against breaches of all kinds.

From there, airports may find it wise to advertise the importance of individuals protecting their data in such public spaces. Collectively, every staff member and traveler can then put digital protection first.

4. Fluctuating Travel Restrictions

As the U.S. steadily vaccinates residents, other countries are attempting to do the same. If COVID-19 cases start to spike in other locations, travelers could be looking at new restrictions or bans to keep new cases or strains from entering the States.

The TSA has stated that it doesn’t have control of restrictions or shutdowns. Instead, individual airlines, airports, or local governments and public health officials will make these decisions. The federal government, too, can tighten or loosen these restrictions at any time.

As of now, the U.S. has implemented mandates for citizens returning from specific places or circumstances. Travel out of the country will depend on location and circumstances as well.

5. New Tech Everywhere

Technology enables travel. With the latest tech, airport staff can properly screen travelers and ensure everyone remains safe and healthy.

According to the latest updates from the TSA, airports now work with high-quality CT scanners, enhanced imaging technology, and credential authentication technology (CAT) machines.

The scanning and imaging tech helps maintain physical distance while TSA agents check for potential threats. The CAT machines automatically verify documents so travelers don’t have to interact with anyone else.

With all this tech, the airport will, of course, need more cybersecurity to protect the data. Thus, tech creates countless opportunities for physical and digital security. 2021 will see more tech-based integrations across the board.

Physical and Digital Travel Safety

While 2021 most likely won’t see air travel returning to pre-pandemic activity levels, this year will still get the industry back on track. The above trends show how physical and cybersecurity practices must go hand in hand to provide the best protection all around.


Devin Partida is an industrial tech writer and the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com, a digital magazine for all things technology, big data, cryptocurrency, and more. To read more from Devin, please check out the site.


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