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Prof. Dr. Roy Balleste

on Cybersecurity

The idea of traveling to the Moon and Mars, and from there to many other places, is more than a desire to explore. It is a matter of readiness and survival. The cyberthreat landscape stands as one of the obstacles to be surmounted. This landscape does not afford any chances to those engaged in space activities, especially now with the realization that transnational cyberattacks are possible. Now, these cyber threats and attacks have extended off-world. As time passes, it is unavoidable to notice that our critical infrastructure, along with the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, are an intricate part of space activities. Just as with terrestrial communications, space activities also suffer from hackers that utilize malicious code or other techniques to interfere with the peaceful use of outer space.

The nature of cyber activities with apparent ties to foreign governments remains unresolved and needs the immediate intervention of the space industry. The halcyon view that efforts to draft new norms offer a solution disregards their voluntary and weak nature. The present legal structure needs reform because it is ill-suited to protect space activities. Hackers serve a particular master, or at a minimum, they are significantly encouraged to harass other nations. The challenge at hand is the added enigma associated with nations that knowingly tolerate the use of their territory as bases of illegal cyber operations that strike governments and businesses alike. Yet, humanity is entering a new age of commerce and exploration.

The landscape of cyberthreats in outer space is further complicated because of the disruption caused by non-state actors. These actors now seemingly possess an extra level of sophistication in their attacks, possibly acquired via government contacts. Cybersecurity in outer space requires recognizing that satellites, ground stations, and the data exchanged between them must be protected by multi-layer network perimeter defenses, cryptographic systems, and physical security. Consider that the ground station alone requires controls in place to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the data and the devices that facilitate the communications. In other words, stakeholders should assume a zero-trust approach by first assessing all systems and all processes. Law alone cannot resolve the immediate threat. The main concern should be to gain an understanding of the available standards applicable to the space industry. The interconnection of cyberspace and outer space is unavoidable. For this reason, above any other consideration, the stakeholders of New Space should take the initiative to engage uncertainty and inspire the evolution of cybersecurity in outer space.


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