It’s often said that complexity is the enemy of cybersecurity because complex systems have inherent risks that are hard to predict. Some of the most complex systems are the satellites, probes and manned space vessels that are growing in number on an almost daily basis.

Precision engineering and custom embedded computing and communications systems operate with extreme reliability in the harshest of conditions. Contact with space-based objects is through ground stations communicating critical commands and information downloads often as the spacecraft streaks by in orbit.

Each level of complexity provides additional vectors for a sophisticated attack that is difficult to defend in the borderless region of space:

“Space is a domain where no nation has ownership and all nations may operate. And space objects, depending on their function and orbits, may spend large portions of their orbit within communication range of sophisticated adversaries that may seek to disrupt or damage or deceive them while in operation.”

Major aerospace and defense contractors have been victims of cyberattacks that resulted in the loss of intellectual property. Code bases are in a constant battle from the inclusion of malicious code, and it’s always a risk that a trusted insider could damage or put an operation at risk.

It’s been reported that at least three different criminal groups have gained unauthorized access to upload malicious code on satellite-based communications systems used to provide command and control. While an actual cyber event hasn’t occurred, nightmares range from sophisticated nations intercepting, decoding, and replicating command and control signals to a hobbyist with a rooftop antenna passing unauthorized commands to a vessel wreaking havoc.

What’s the answer? Overall, start adopting the cybersecurity practices of terrestrial-based enterprises:

  • Improve information sharing on best practices for security design and risk mitigation
  • Design for an eventual breach, and a quick response and recovery
  • Accept the cost of redundancy in both hardware and processes
  • Lock down the ground-based segments of space architectures.

Uplogix has been checking that last box for years with our satellite customers. Bringing our DoD and financial industry security capabilities to satcom networks provides robust monitoring, AAA and compliance reporting. For more information about what Uplogix can do for your space-based network, visit our Satellite industry solution page.