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Cybersecurity Principles for Satellite and Space Systems

Space is a burgeoning ground for cyber-attacks.

This is the opinion of most cybersecurity professionals who believe more needs to be done in the area of cybersecurity for satellite and space systems.

The need for greater cybersecurity safeguards is especially relevant when you consider that the pace of satellite launches has sped up considerably, going from 129 in 2011 to 1,809 last year, according to a United Nations agency that tracks those numbers.

In fact today, there are 9,254 objects in orbit according to the agency. Global space-related activities generated $447 billion in 2020, supporting everything from vehicle navigation to efficient farm management.

The list of worrisome scenarios from a cyber-attack in space is growing and includes everything from disabling communication satellites to sabotage directed at military space systems.

While kinetic attacks are possible, cyber-attacks are more likely because they have the benefit of being inexpensive. And, the line of reasoning goes, if you can disrupt satellite operations using cyber, unfortunately that greatly widens the pool of potential threat actors who have the capability to disrupt satellite operations.

Cybersecurity professionals report that the most significant weaknesses that is common to all satellite systems is the use of long-range telemetry for communication with ground stations. The uplinks and downlinks are often transmitted through open telecom network security protocols that are easily accessed by cybercriminals.

Additionally, IoT devices that utilize satellite communications pose more potential points of entry for those who specialize in cybercrimes.

Experts in satellite and space systems cybersecurity believe satellite ground stations are particularly vulnerable because if a cyber intruder is able to interrupt the satellite signal they may be able to gain access to any downstream systems connected to the satellite.

Consequently, an attacker could potentially trespass through an organization’s network starting from the infiltrated satellite ground station.

According to the Aerospace Corporation, there are several segments of space infrastructure that need to be hardened against cyber-attack:

  • Spacecraft could be vulnerable to command intrusions such as giving bad instructions to destroy or manipulate basic controls
  • Malware could be used to infect systems on the ground like satellite control centers
  • Links between the two and spacecraft could be spoofed such as disguising communication from an untrusted source as a trusted one

Fortunately, companies and governments across the board are beginning to take a forward-thinking stance at emerging cybersecurity threats to space equipment, software and communications.

Many cybersecurity professionals emphasize this point: We need upfront cybersecurity accountability from the very beginning. This doesn’t just go for equipment and hardware, but for operating systems and software that will be used by shuttles, rockets and satellites.

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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