SpaceSec: The Next Giant Leap in Space Systems Security

06 May 2022 • Written by ovabor

Artemis Illustration

Securing The Final Frontier of Cybersecurity

Introduction

Space has always been a place of great opportunity and adventure, but it has also been reserved for a select few. Only those who could afford the high costs associated with space exploration and travel were able to participate in this new frontier.

However, over the last few years, longstanding technological and cost barriers to space have fallen, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in space vehicle construction, space launch, space exploration, and human spaceflight. This increased democratization of space is opening up new opportunities for innovation and discovery that were once unavailable to most people.

But with this opportunity comes new risks. As more entities enter into the field of space engineering, they are designing and building vehicles according to very few cybersecurity standards or security protocols. As a result, we are seeing an increase in cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could jeopardize safe, reliable, and trustworthy operations. If we want to truly realize the promise of space, then we need to find ways to ensure these vulnerabilities are addressed.


Current Approach to Space Cybersecurity

Space systems are divided into four technological and operational segments: the space segment, the link segment, the ground segment, and the user segment. Each segment is responsible for different functions and is vulnerable to various cyber threats. Existing cybersecurity solutions on the market today are designed to encrypt communications in the link segment and firewalls to protect the ground segments while ignoring the space segment, because most space operators believe the space segment is immune to direct cyber attack. The problem with this viewpoint is that historically, space engineers and mission integrators have prioritized space vehicle reliability over security.

The importance of securing all four segments cannot be understated; a breach in any one of these areas can have serious consequences for individuals, businesses, governments and militaries around the world. In light of this growing threat landscape, it’s more important than ever that we develop holistic approaches to cybersecurity that take into account all aspects of our interconnected systems.

While many people assume that attacks against spacecraft would be difficult or impossible due to their location in outer space, this assumption has been proven wrong time and again as we continue learn about new ways adversaries can exploit vulnerabilities in our systems. For example, on February 24, 2022, Russia is believed to have hacked US satellite communications provider Viasat KA-SAT network terminals on the day of its invasion of Ukraine. This cyber attack not only affected Ukraine, but other surrounding regions in Europe too. This demonstrates that even seemingly benign objects like commercial satellites can be used as part of an attack strategy against us if they’re not properly secured.

Given these facts it’s clear that we need better cybersecurity solutions specifically tailored for defending spacecraft from cyberattackers. While existing solutions do exist, they’re typically geared towards protecting more terrestrial-based assets like computers and servers located within mision control centers. This leaves spacecraft exposed since they don’t typically have these types of protections implemented within their designs. As more and more critical functions move into orbit, it’s essential we find ways to secure these systems using best practices from other industries such as aviation safety.


A New Approach to Space Cybersecurity

There is no doubt that space systems are increasingly becoming more reliant on cyber capabilities. As such, the security of these systems must be given greater attention and scrutiny. Too often, however, security for space systems is considered an afterthought – a problem to be dealt with when all other concerns like reliability have been addressed. This must change if we are to maintain the safety and security of our space-based assets.

The first step in rethinking security for space systems is acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each system presents its own unique set of vulnerabilities and requires a tailored approach to ensure its protection. Simply relying on existing cybersecurity measures may not be adequate in the face of ever-evolving threats from malicious actors.

In order to properly secure space systems, we need to develop new approaches and technologies specifically designed for this purpose. This includes creating better means of detecting threats as they emerge and developing robust countermeasures that can be deployed quickly and effectively against them. Additionally, we must create stronger authentication mechanisms as well as more resilient communication protocols so that disruptions or attacks will have less impact over our space systems.

Defense-in-Depth Approach

Space systems are increasingly becoming targets for cyberattacks due to the massive amount of data they process and store. While there are many ways to secure space systems, most current approaches rely on traditional security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus software. However, these measures are no longer adequate in today’s highly networked world.

Rethinking security for space systems is essential in order to protect them from ever-evolving cyber threats. One approach that should be considered is using smart cyber products that can detect and prevent attacks in real time. These products use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to automatically learn how an organization’s networks operate and identify malicious activity before it can cause damage.

Another approach is implementing a defense-in-depth strategy which involves layering multiple security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, anti-virus software, etc., to provide greater protection against cyberattacks. By combining both of these approaches, organizations can better protect their space systems from the ever increasing number of cyber threats targeting them.


Proposed Solution

Introducing SpaceSec: A Space Cybersecurity Solution

Spacesec is a cybersecurity project that specializes in research and development of security solutions for the aerospace and defense industry.

At Spacesec, we provide smart cyber products that help protect space systems from cyberattacks. We work with leading mission integrators and operators worldwide, providing them with the tools they need to keep their systems secure.

If you’re looking for a reliable way to secure your space system against cyberthreats, then Spacesec is the right partner for you. Contact us today to learn more about our products and how they can benefit your organization


Why Now?

Cybersecurity is a critical issue that is often discussed. However, there are three important truisms about cybersecurity today that are rarely discussed. One is that almost all cybersecurity solutions are based on software, and software is inherently vulnerable to attack. There have been many high-profile cases of companies being hacked because their software was not secure enough.

Another important truism about cybersecurity is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to it. Each spacecrats and satellites have different threat vectors and therefore needs a different approach to security. A layered approach with multiple layers of security is the best way to protect against as many types of attacks as possible.

The third important truism about cybersecurity today is that next-generation space vehicles now resemble cyber-physical systems. Cyber-physical systems are systems where physical objects are connected to the internet and can be controlled or monitored remotely. Space vehicles have always been cyber physical systems since they rely on computers to control them, but they are becoming even more so as we move towards autonomous spacecrafts. This presents new challenges for securing space vehicles from cyberattacks since traditional approaches may not be effective against new threats.


Ongoing Research Areas


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Blockquote

“Space-based assets are critical to the modern military’s capability and form part of the critical national infrastructure of a modern economy. Being able to protect and defend the assets is critical to both military and to the day-to-day running of the modern economy.” - Dr Michael Holden


Emerging Risks to Space Systems: A Space Cyber Primer