As the 2019 Satellite Conference kicked off yesterday, complete with remarks from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, one aspect getting some attention is the security risks that a commercialized satellite sector poses.
Space News covered a panel on satellite security, noting that one particular vulnerability is the idea that satellites can be reprogrammed while in orbit, “allowing them to take on different missions and serve different customers.” Enabling such an ability demands a secure communications link that will thwart hackers seeking to take control of satellites.
Quoting panelist Jeb Linton, chief technology officer for IBM Cloud’s Partner Ecosystem and Cognitive Security division, the report notes “the focus needs to be on ‘resiliency’ rather than having an impenetrable network. It is more important to limit cyber intrusions and respond quickly than to try and have a flawless record.”
Not coincidently, this morning The Washington Post published an opinion piece on satellite security in which Gregory Falco, a cyber research fellow at Harvard and founder of tech security company NeuroMesh, sounds the alarm. After describing how easy it currently is to hack into commercial satellites, Falco says it is not far-fetched to think about this as a serious national security threat, where commercial satellites could be controlled by hackers and used to disrupt military satellites.
Falco’s main point, however, is that it is time for space security to be a distinct discipline, and that it needs an agency home and resources to carry out what is an increasingly important mission.