The Unified Data Library: National Asset or Security Risk?

What is the Unified Data Library?

The Unified Data Library (UDL) is a project initially launched by the Air Force Research Laboratory and developed by Bluestaq, a software company, in 2018 to create a database of information pertinent to maintaining space situational awareness (SSA). The UDL combines data from a variety of different satellites, both commercial and military, and centralizes it in one location to allow for individuals to make better informed decisions.

Bluestaq in 2021 received a $280 million dollar contract from the U.S. Space Force to develop to technology signifying the importance of this project to the military. This system is already being utilized by other programs to help better support missile launches and battlefield management systems. Other large database systems such as Warp Core developed by Palantir will also pull information from the UDL to further disseminate it out to Command and Control (C2) platforms. In a report released by the Space Systems Command on November 8th, 2021, it was revealed that the UDL served a key role in demonstrating the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System as it helped to relay ground target information generated from an F-35A to U.S. Army systems keeping all players informed and in sync with each other.

Is It Secure?

If a system, such as this was infiltrated by an adversary many of the benefits described above begin to look more like risk factors. The UDL most likely contains information of the utmost importance concerning high value military assets and data that if leaked could compromise national security. The website for the lead contractor of UDL, Bluestaq, does not even mention the UDL even though it is one of if not their most valuable programs. Their website does also not go into any amount of detail into how their systems are secured or measures they have taken to prevent breaches from occurring.

If an adversary were able to gain control over the UDL they would not only have access to a whole host of desirable information it would also be possible for them to input false information into the system possible causing disastrous cascading consequences. An adversary would have multiple reasons for wanting to do this; they could simply want to cause confusion, have us reveal our countermeasures, or even just for fun. Systems such as these that have such far-reaching impact need to be built first and foremost with security in mind, because if they aren’t the consequences fully outweigh the benefits.