Cybersecurity is the Soft Underbelly of Space

Humans have been physically securing things since the dawn of time through the use of physical barriers and arms, but cybersecurity is only a few decades old and constantly evolving, the tools, techniques and partnerships that guarantee physical security do not yet exist in the cyber realm. This has led to a path of least resistance through the “soft underbelly” of digital networks across government and commercial space programs. This is amplified by the huge amount of control and data keeping we have migrated to digital systems in recent decades. Networked computers now have access to and control nearly all aspects of critical infrastructure and complex systems. The Russian war has also shown how important and advanced commercial space services have gotten and how widely accessible it is.

In current mission programs cybersecurity is often an after thought, bolt on at the end, or a budget line item issue to eliminate. National security missions may have more cybersecurity resources invested in them, but science and commercial missions are frequently lacking. Digital infiltration into systems in a lot of cases is the path of least resistance to get in and also presents a unique semi-anonymous aspect that physical presence has never had. Cybersecurity needs to be promoted to a first class concern in all aspects of projects, but it also cannot only be built in, it needs to be practiced by all users as well to avoid users becoming the weak link and falling prey to social engineering. As Lieutenant General (LTG) Stephen N. Whiting, head of the US Space Force’s Space Operations Command (SpOC) has said, “We have to be cyber secure in everything we do because that’s a soft underbelly of these global space networks”.

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