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Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems

Cybersecurity for satellite and space systems has gotten much more attention the past few years as satellite and space systems have grown in importance in everyday life in our society.

Navigation, TV broadcasts, weather forecasts, climate monitoring and military communications are all dependent on functioning satellite and space systems.

The burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) also functions effectively through satellite communications.

Needless to say, there is a lot of important data tied up here that has become targets for cyber criminals.

Particularly disturbing, in the past, only nation states were capable of attacking space-based assets. But today the technical barrier is much lower. It is possible anyone to purchase steerable antennas, amplifiers, transmitters and software tools for recording satellite signals and even generating and transmitting signals that can interfere with critical satellite operations at relatively low cost.

Consequently, state-of-the art monitoring and protection measures are a must for space-based systems, just like any other IT system that supports critical infrastructure.

Experts believe that applying cybersecurity principles for satellite and space systems in a SATCOM environment requires a layered security approach, or Defense-in-Depth as it is sometimes called.

As recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA), 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.

Of course, when it comes to securing a network, all possible points of entry should be assessed, up to and including wireless communications. A Wi-Fi network presents several security challenges for any network administrator, in part because a bad actor doesn’t even have to be inside the physical walls.

Satellite communications networks offer an even more considerable problem. 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.

Beyond cybersecurity vulnerabilities for government SATCOM systems, it’s important to understand that the satellite industry has seen a resurgence over the past few years, and is now in a prime position to play a key role in meeting the ever-growing market demands, such as 5G backhaul and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems by Tonex

Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems, Training Workshop is 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.

The rapidly expanding number of satellites transmitting GPS locations, cellphone signals and other sensitive information is creating new opportunities for hackers.

Truth is, cybersecurity isn’t just a terrestrial concern – it’s also become a hot button in space.

That’s because the U.S. and other countries have become increasingly reliant on orbiting satellites for communications and military defense strategies.

It’s this dependency on satellites that has cybersecurity experts worried.

The big problem is that satellites can be vulnerable to a number of different types of attacks that can be more difficult to interpret than physical damage. Cybercriminals can, for example, corrupt signals that are going from the ground to the satellite or back.

But it’s not just the signals being exchanged between orbiting satellites and Earth-based stations that are vulnerable. Satellite antennas themselves are prone to cyberattacks according to cybersecurity professionals.

A report claims that  a number of popular satellite communication systems are vulnerable to the cyberattacks, which could also leak information and hack connected devices, leading the head researcher of this report to call the consequences of these vulnerabilities “shocking.”

Nearly 5,000 satellites are currently in orbit around the Earth. The U.S. relies on many of them for everything from communications and emergency warnings to GPS coordinates and defense information.

Damage inflicted in the satellite sector could have a ripple effect, leading to heavy financial losses and/or comprised data in other areas. Satellites are part of the extended cyber ecosystem for most organizations, but organizations rarely have direct control over satellite cybersecurity.

Cyberattacks are increasing at an exponential rate, and SATCOM systems and satellite communications are becoming a prime target. Cybersecurity and Satellite Systems Training addresses all the key areas of satellite systems, including the management of the space and ground segments, Tracking, Telemetry and Command (TT&C) functions, uplink and downlink transmissions and network performance.

Cybersecurity and Satellite Systems 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.

Learning Objectives

GPS or Weather Satellite orbiting Earth

Upon completion of this course, the participants will learn how to:

  • Examine SATCOM networks, architecture, network attacks, and their impact on devices
  • Develop a foundation knowledge of SATCOM cybersecurity threats and strategies for mitigating risk
  • View the SATCOM system from the perspective of the “hacker”
  • Identify exploitation and exploring how tools are used to gain entry into SATCOM systems and their secure environments.
  • Develop skills for analyzing and addressing vulnerabilities in SATCOM systems and products with embedded systems and software
  • Analyze SATCOM system embedded hardware and firmware to detect vulnerabilities and opportunities for improving security
  • Mitigate threats by implementing effective and proven countermeasures
  • Reduce risk to acceptable levels to ensure successful SATCOM operations

Course Content

Introduction to SATCOM Networks and Systems

  • SATCOM 101
  • Satellite Communications Overview
  • Satellite Orbits and Payloads
  • Satellite Constellations
  • Spectrum and Bands
  • Channels and Carriers
  • Channelization
  • Satellite Access Techniques
  • Satellite Coverage
  • Principles of Spot Beams
  • Coverage and Communication Analysis
  • Common Types of Satellites

SATCOM Network and System Architecture

  • SATCOM Architectural Components
  • Spacecraft, Repeater, Transponders and Antennas
  • Spacecraft Mission and Bus Subsystems
  • Earth Stations and Network Technology
  • Tracking, Telemetry and Command (TT&C)
  • Uplink and Downlink Transmissions
  • Launch Vehicles and Services
  • Satellite Operations and Organization
  • Space Segment
  • Control Segment
  • User Segment
  • Architectures Defined by Function
  • SATCOM System Functions
  • Tracking Telemetry & Command (TT&C)
  • Data Collection
  • Data Relay
  • Satellite Design
  • Onboard Processing
  • Platforms for Terminal (Chips, OS, MMI, etc)
  • Transmission (coding, modulations, etc)
  • Types of antennas and design
  • Capabilities and limitations
  • Product development process
  • Autonomous Satellite Control
  • Spacecraft Operations
  • Spacecraft Navigation
  • Network Management
  • Network Operations Center (NOC)

Satellite Communications Technology Principles

  • Satellite communication systems
  • Satellite constellations
  • Spot beams
  • Radio Link
  • Spectrum issues
  • Propagation characteristics
  • Analog and digital Modulation
  • Digital modulation and Coding
  • Satellite RF Link
  • Multiple access principles
  • Earth Stations
  • Antennas
  • Satellite system performance
  • System tradeoffs
  • Transponder System Design and Architecture
  • System tradeoffs
  • Communications Payload Performance Management
  • Earth station and other equipment
  • Multiple Access Techniques
  • Access methods
  • SCPC, TDMA, TDM, DAMA, CDMA, OFDM, DVB
  • Single channel per carrier (SCPC)
  • Propagation Interference and Regulation
  • Payload Engineering
  • Spacecraft Engineering and Operations

SATCOM Networks and System Cybersecurity

  • SATCOM Systems Attacks
  • Uniquely Network Concerns
  • Reliability and Security
  • Role of Obscurity
  • Threat Assessment
  • Attackers and Assets
  • Attack Surface
  • Attack Trees
  • Security Policy
  • SATCOM System Vulnerabilities

SATCOM System Vulnerability Analysis

  • SATCOM System and Network Attacks
  • Exploiting SATCOM Systems and Devices
  • The Stages of System Exploitation
  • Initial Reconnaissance
  • Exploitation
  • Firmware Unpacking and Modification
  • Detecting
  • Extracting
  • Analysis
  • Modification and Creation of new firmware
  • Hacking/exploitation techniques, tools and entry points
  • Defensive technologies

Case Study and Workshop: Cybersecurity Attacks and Best Mitigation Practices for SATCOM Systems

  • Cybersecurity Analysis of SATCOM Systems
  • Design Process
  • System CONOPS
  • Mission objectives
  • Test and Evaluation
  • Threat Analysis
  • System Design and Security Requirements
  • System Implementation Security
  • Attack surface
  • Physical Attack Surface
  • SATCOM software, hardware and firmware analysis
  • Attack types against SATCOM and wireless communications protocols, buses, terminals, embedded operating systems, applications
  • Automated Threat Modeling
  • Threat Modeling
  • Threat Modeling Methodologies
  • Threat Modeling Software
  • Threat Modeling Tools
  • Mitigation approaches and techniques
  • Hacking/exploitation techniques, tools, and entry points
  • Trust hardware and software components
  • Risk Assessment
  • Control Plan
  • Mitigation

Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems

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