SITA INC network helps Bahrain extend eBorders

A proprietary network used by aviation IT provider SITA Information Networking Computing (SITA INC) has proved central in Bahrain’s eBorders scheme.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  August 29, 2004

|~|sita-airplane_m.jpg|~|SITA INC’s dedicated network helps to ensure secure point-to-point transfer of information between the Bahraini government and airport check-in counters worldwide.|~|A proprietary network used by aviation IT provider SITA Information Networking Computing (SITA INC) has proved central in Bahrain’s eBorders scheme. One of the key aims of the scheme is to boost security by stopping undesirables boarding planes to Bahrain. SITA INC’s Advanced Passenger Information (API) system helps in this regard. The system sends information on passengers bound for Bahrain from airline check-in counters around the globe to immigration in Bahrain. The information is communicated through SITA’s network via a gateway in the USA. The government can then stop a passenger from boarding if it decides the passenger is a danger to the country or if their visa details are inaccurate or invalid. The Bahraini government is effectively extending its immigration procedures to the country of departure. The network used by SITA and owned by SITA spin-off company Equant, was designed specifically to link the world’s airlines and airports. It has been growing since 1949 and includes nodes in over 230 countries worldwide. SITA INC has an exclusive deal to use the network to provide applications and services to the aviation industry. The network is standardised on Nortel Passport switches in its core, Cisco switches and routers on the periphery and consists of many kinds of infrastructure from submarine cables to satellite connections. The network supports both the legacy protocol used by the airlines as well as internet protocol (IP). “The network is fully redundant, with five nines reliability. If one line goes down there are others to take the traffic,” says Jamal El-Hoss, regional vice president for sales and marketing Middle East, Africa and South Central Asia for SITA INC. SITA SC, a not for profit organisation owned by airlines, had the task of ensuring the IT applications set up by SITA INC were secure. The organisation acted as consultants and implemented its managed security solution (MSS). “The main issues we faced were authentication and protection,” says Hani El-Assaad, vice president, business management, SITA SC MEA. “We introduced a variety of authentication technologies, from passwords and PINs to tokens to ensure that unauthorised people could not access the system,” he adds. In terms of protection, SITA SC chose and implemented IDS and firewall technology. The company also assessed network performance, using application profiling to make sure the service had the bandwidth it needed. Furthermore, a service level agreement (SLA) was agreed between SITA SC and the Bahraini government ensuring guaranteed levels of performance and data availability. The Bahrain government is also considering using the SITA network as an alterative route for electronic visa (eVisa) applications. The network would be used to give direct access from embassies around the world to the government in Bahrain. The eVisa scheme is another plank of the country’s eBorders plan and is one of the first such implementations in the region, with Qatar completing a similar project last year. The scheme is designed to speed up passenger processing and increase security and was also implemented by SITA INC, working in partnership with Australian systems integrator CPS Systems. The service is limited to visitors from countries eligible for obtaining visit visas on arrival in Bahrain. However, the eBorders team plans to extend this to include more countries and eventually 90% of visa requests will be handled electronically. Travelers can apply for eVisas on the Bahrain government website and can also monitor the progress of applications online. The main reason for implementing the scheme was to speed up passenger processing. The eVisa removes the need to visit an embassy before traveling or purchase a visa on arrival in Bahrain. It also means faster processing in Bahrain as it removes the need for visitors to pay for the visa in local currency on arrival.||**||

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