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Report highlights the cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure in space

A new report, ‘Space, the Final Frontier for Cybersecurity?’, published by Chatham House has highlighted the need for a radical review of cybersecurity in space to avoid potentially catastrophic attacks.

The key findings from the report include:

  • Much of the world’s critical infrastructure – such as communications, air transport, maritime trade, financial and other business services, weather and environmental monitoring and defence systems – depends on the space infrastructure, including satellites, ground stations and data links at national, regional and international levels.
  • Satellites and other space assets, just like other parts of the digitized critical infrastructure, are vulnerable to cyberattack. Cyber vulnerabilities in space therefore pose serious risks for ground-based critical infrastructure, and insecurities in the space environment will hinder economic development and increase the risks to society.
  • Cyberattacks on satellites can include jamming, spoofing and hacking attacks on communication networks; targeting control systems or mission packages; and attacks on the ground infrastructure such as satellite control centres. Possible cyberthreats against space-based systems include state-to-state and military actions; well-resourced organized criminal elements seeking financial gain; terrorist groups wishing to promote their causes, even up to the catastrophic level of cascading satellite collisions; and individual hackers who want to fanfare their skills.
  • The development of a flexible, multilateral space and cybersecurity regime is urgently required. International cooperation will be crucial, but highly regulated action led by government or similar institutions is likely to be too slow to enable an effective response to space-based cyberthreats. Instead, a lightly regulated approach developing industry-led standards, particularly on collaboration, risk assessment, knowledge exchange and innovation, will better promote agility and effective threat responses.
  • An international ‘community of the willing’ – made up of able states and other critical stakeholders within the international space supply chain and insurance industry – is likely to provide the best opportunity to develop a space cybersecurity regime competent to match the range of threats.
Read the report here (PDF).


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