Satellite communications (SATCOM) networks are vulnerable to cyber risks.
SATCOM has a footprint that covers large areas of land and oceans. A SATCOM network is potentially vulnerable to attack from actors located anywhere in the satellite’s footprint.
With government agencies being the biggest user of SATCOM, their networks present a highly desirable target for bad actors. Applying cybersecurity in a SATCOM environment requires a layered security approach, or Defense-in-Depth as it is sometimes called.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has recognized that Defense-in-Depth is an effective means to protect networks by presenting multiple obstacles for would-be hackers. This approach brings together multiple strategies to mitigate threats, protecting an organization’s data and SATCOM network.
The idea behind this approach is if one mechanism fails, another checkpoint is ready and waiting to thwart an attack.
One of the key elements of wireless communication is the availability and use of the RF (radio frequency) spectrum. This is particularly true for SATCOM networks where the introduction of noise or interference, intentional or unintentional, can degrade a SATCOM network, sometimes rendering it completely unusable.
Given SATCOM is a critical communications asset for the military, the stakes can be very high because of the potential for cyber-attacks. Due to the finite amount of RF, some organizations and agencies restrict the spectrum for use with specific applications and services.
Despite their efforts, the ever-growing demand for wireless capability still results in congestion and interference within the RF spectrum. The industry has recognized this surge in devices and usage by responding with innovations to address the situation. To date, successes have been constrained due to cost or the nature of how devices are deployed.
Supply chain intrusion has also been a security issue for military and non-military satellite communications.
To reduce the risk of a supply chain intrusion, the Space Development Agency is working with vendors to make sure they know where components came from. The Pentagon is especially worried about Chinese-made components or software being used in U.S. systems that could provide avenues for cyber-attacks.
Want to learn more? Tonex offers Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems, a 2-day interactive workshop designed to provide a unique learning experience on space and satellite vulnerabilities that are commonly exploited. Participants will discover techniques and strategies for integrating cybersecurity measures into space and SATCOM systems, networks, products and critical missions from the start.
This course is a knowledge-level course designed to provide a knowledge base of Cybersecurity applied to SATCOM. Lessons and exercises taught by subject matter experts will expand the student’s understanding of the space and radio frequency environments, capabilities and limitations of military and commercial SATCOM systems, threats to all segments of SATCOM, planning processes, cybersecurity attacks and mitigation techniques.
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