Space operators must begin planning for and implementing quantum-resistant cryptography now to ensure the resistance of space national security systems against emerging threats, according to a senior official from the National Security Agency (NSA). Darren Turner, chief of Critical Networks Defense for the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, emphasized the importance of cryptography in cyber defense for space systems. Turner highlighted the increasing scope, scale, and sophistication of nation-state adversaries and malicious cyber actors in the current threat environment. China and Russia have been implicated or suspected in multiple cybersecurity attacks against U.S. satellites in recent years, underscoring the criticality of cybersecurity measures for space systems.
Turner stated that stopping cyber intrusions in space cybersecurity is akin to counterterrorism for this generation. To ensure success in this evolving space, he called for collaboration among the United States government, its allies, and industry in adapting, innovating, and sharpening their competitive edge. The NSA, serving as the National Manager for National Security Systems, supports the development and certification of cryptographic solutions to protect space national security systems in cooperation with government and industry partners. Turner stressed the need for robust cryptography as the last line of defense, securing critical communications and safeguarding tactical radios and weapon systems used by warfighters.
To fortify the space architecture, Turner emphasized securing the ground segment, which is susceptible to cyber attacks like malware injection. Quantum resistance was also highlighted as a key theme in hardening space architecture. Turner advocated for quantum-resistant algorithms for data confidentiality, secure key exchange, and robust software signatures to protect space national security systems from threats. The NSA aims to achieve quantum resistance by 2033 and plans to develop an internet protocol encryption standard for future space-based network encryption solutions.
Turner called for collaboration and highlighted the NSA’s Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, which has numerous industry partnerships to protect the defense industrial base. In a case example, Turner mentioned how collaboration between industry and government allowed them to attribute attacks on Viasat’s KA-SAT network to Russian military operations. Additionally, he highlighted the NSA’s AI Security Center, which aims to collaborate with U.S. industry, national labs, academia, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and select foreign partners to develop best practices and risk frameworks for secure adoption of AI capabilities.
Turner concluded by emphasizing that the future of space operations requires a new cybersecurity paradigm that can withstand evolving cyber threats. This paradigm involves close industry and foreign partnerships, enhanced policies, and international frameworks to collectively defend the space domain.