Researchers and satellite startups hold talks to discuss the celestial cybersecurity

In the space industry, satellite operators are worried about cyber risks as they work on satellite and support systems. Previously, the debut European event focused on satellite cybersecurity, Cysat ’21. The conference gave ethical hackers, startup satellite companies, decision-makers, and researchers a chance to talk together. An Oxford PhD student and a security researcher, James Puvur, spoke to the Daily Swig, claiming that time is gone when satellite systems were unreachable, and they currently have the risk of hacking.

From his research, James stated things are different from the past since previously satellite systems were highly confidential and included an expensive kit with limiting information. Despite the possibility of getting into a satellite system, less information made it impossible for hackers to compromise a system. However, these details are something the satellite sector can longer rely on to keep their systems safe. In the past, getting into a satellite system meant breaking in the ground station’s windows computes since it was the weakest line. However, currently, there is an issue with radiofrequency exploitation.

Immature practices are a concern that the satellite sector will face in the future since some space firms transmit protocols without the necessary precautions. James explained that the satellite systems are likely to face hacking since the development team often focuses on the ground station forgetting to secure their satellites. The space startup, ReOrbit’s CTO, Ignacio Chechile, backed up Puvur, claiming that immature practices are common in the satellite industry since the development team forgot the basics of cybersecurity.

The conference discussed the issue claiming that the area has potential risks since hackers can easily buy the necessary hardware to track a satellite. Chechile warned satellite companies that the radio frequency area is vulnerable, and the development team is less-concerned with the simple security issues, leading to future problems. However, the space industry is taking the lead to innovative solutions and practices to secure the satellite communications sector.

Previously, the US Air Force held a hack-a-Sat satellite hacking challenge where two ethical hackers took part in the initiative reached the final round. The hackers spoke about the event stating that they were hoping for a rematch in the future. Besides, McAfee’s researchers, including Christian Beek and Eoin Carroll in Cysat, gave details in blog posts on lessons the security systems can apply to secure satellite systems.

When development teams send a system into space, there seems like a way to protect it from real-world security issues. However, several incidents have proven otherwise on this assumption. In 2008, the famous Johnson Space station faced a malware issue that caused the International Space Station issues. Many speakers in the conference explained the need for technical solutions and a security culture for space security.