Satellites track monstrous Hurricane Ian

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is urging people in the path of hurricane Ian to “take all necessary actions to protect life and property” from the “life-threatening” storm surge and heavy rains that Ian is forecast to bring. Ian is predicted to weaken quickly after making landfall in Florida, but the rain it brings will continue swamping the southern parts of the East Coast. The weakened but still noticeable storm is expected to reach Washington, D.C., in the middle of next week.

While the US, via NASA and NOAA, has used space-based sensing for a while now to conduct weather monitoring and forecasting activities, security implications of these activities are often ignored or down-played. These systems are often not designed with defense applications in mind, nor are they designed with rigorous cybersecurity hardening. Technical attacks, such as hijacking and denial-of-service, can degrade or deny access to these systems, especially during times of most need, such as tracking incoming hurricanes. Social attacks, such as social engineering and misinformation campaigns, are also a threat, with the potential to misconstrue governmental warnings. For instance, in the age of social media, a malicious actor posing as an official government account could spread a message telling people to not evacuate and that the storm is milder than the media is making it seem.

Ultimately as the use of, and dependence on, space systems increases, so too must our understanding of the security threats against them, and how to begin to mitigate them.