Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023
Steps Taken to Secure Satellite Networks as More Players Enter Space

A federal agency has taken measures to enhance the security of hybrid satellite networks where private and government infrastructure may interact. Hybrid satellite networks are becoming more common as more players enter space. However, this also increases the risk of disruptive actions such as data theft or damage to connected assets. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently published its final Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Networks, highlighting the need to assess security in these networks.

One of NIST’s concerns is the connection between hybrid networks and government systems or critical infrastructure. Hackers seeking personal gain or acting on behalf of rival nations could exploit these networks to disrupt operations or seize control of satellites. The addition of new connections and touchpoints in hybrid networks introduces various threat scenarios, making security a major concern.

Notably, encryption plays a crucial role in securing these networks, but the quality of encryption used by different entities may vary. NIST’s framework addresses the challenge of securing hybrid satellite networks where different components have different security levels.

The rise of hybrid satellite networks coincides with the increasing importance of non-terrestrial communications and data flow for both the private and public sectors. Companies like Capella Space rely on these networks for Earth observation data, while government agencies like NIST and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have heightened their focus on space cybersecurity.

The private sector’s growing interest in space has accelerated satellite launches, with China launching over 600 satellites per year. The satellite sector is seen as a vital part of developing 5G wireless technology and meeting communication needs, especially in remote areas. The convergence of satellite and cellular technologies is being explored, with successful trials showing the potential for voice, SMS, and data connectivity.

As more organizations enter the space industry, the need for robust security measures becomes critical. Historically, industries such as energy, utilities, oil and gas, transportation, logistics, aviation, and defense have relied on satellite networks. However, with the advent of new technologies like AI and the increasing adoption of satellites, the future of data and communications in space may undergo significant changes.