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By Bruce Sussman
Fri | Oct 19, 2018 | 11:58 AM PDT

Leading cybersecurity at GE Aviation is an amazing opportunity—and responsibility−because of the enormity of the role and because of what is at stake.

Every two seconds, an aircraft powered by a GE engine takes off somewhere in the world. And as you read this, there are approximately 2,200 such aircraft carrying 300,000 passengers and crew around the globe.


We learned about all of this from GE Aviation's SVP & Global CISO, Deneen DeFiore, during her keynote presentation at SecureWorld Cincinnati.

"Aircraft have become flying networks," she says.

Her appearance came just days after the company made headlines for helping to foil a Chinese attempt at intellectual property theft.

That attempt was an effort to leverage an insider. As it turns out, the company's insider threat program is robust.

WATCH: Three minutes of the SecureWorld keynote by GE Aviation Chief Information Security Officer Deneen DeFiore: 

When it comes to cybersecurity, “This is my motto, my team can attest to this: We’re not stopping anything, we’re enabling things. We’re enabling them in a secure manner," DeFiore told the group of information security leaders at the fourth annual SecureWorld conference.

"Root of trust, authentication, supply chain security is all crucial. We do rigorous third-party evaluations. Threat sharing is a huge, huge component. We share threats built on trusted relationships."

DeFiore also outlines challenges that comes with innovation in such a critical industry. "A line of code on a critical airline system could take two years to re-qualify, if you have to change it." 

This means everything must be built with a way to update its security for the lifetime of the product. And if you think you have legacy systems (and you probably do), GE Aviation might have you beat.

"We still have engines in flight that are 50 years old and flying perfectly well. So it's a lifelong product."

There are also national security implications for what the GE Aviation cybersecurity team secures, because most of the military fleet is powered by GE engines.

So the next time you board a flight, or hear a military jet overhead, remember DeFiore and her team for their efforts to create a more resilient aviation ecosystem for all of us.

"We invent the future of flight, we lift people up, and we bring them home safely. What I tell my team is we secure that purpose and mission."