Space Force tackles cybersecurity threats

A key challenge for the Space Force is how to assess cybersecurity risks, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting

WASHINGTON — Satellite operators are face facts that ground systems and network equipment used to operate space systems provide numerous entry points for cyber attackers. Cyber ​​and Malware attacks can be launched at relatively low cost, making these types of weapons much more accessible than missiles or lasers.

This is a growing concern for the US Space Force, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of Space Operations Command.

A key challenge for the Space Force is how to assess cybersecurity risks, Whiting said July 7 at the Space Policy Show, hosted by Aerospace Corp.

“It came to mind recently: cybersecurity and how we measure risk in the cyber realm,” said Whiting, who has describes the cyberdomain as the “the soft underbelly of our global space networks.

“His a real problem and it is a problem that we asked for and got help from the political community,” he said.

The military is more comfortable dealing with physical security threats while cybersecurity is a different issue that requires a non-traditional approach, he noted.

“At Peterson Space Force Base [Colorado] we have a fence around our facility, we have members of the armed security forces who are well trained to defend this facility,” Whiting said. “We have security cameras, we have security alarms, it all comes together. We are comfortable enough to understand what our security posture is to the threat outside the gate, based on intelligence and law enforcement.

Now contrast that with cybersecurity, he said, “where we know there are countries trying to probe us into cyber, what we call advanced and persistent threat actors. We don’t have the same idea of ​​how to measure our risk in cyber.

The Space Force is now looking to add more cyber specialist squadrons to support military units that operate communications, surveillance and navigation satellites. “WWe invested in cyber defense,” Whiting said. “We have a cyber workforce that thinks about cyber defense.” The challenge is “how do you measure this cyber risk so that you can decide if I’m comfortable with my stance on risk?”

Russia’s tactics in Ukraine, where hackers were attempting to penetrate Ukraine’s communications satellite infrastructure prior to the February invasion, are considered a playbook how cyber weapons could be used in other conflicts.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported jamming of Starlink communications near Ukrainian conflict zones. And hackers infiltrated Viasat’s KA-SAT satellite Internet network, disabling modems that provided Internet links to thousands of customers in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

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