Cyber-security for space based systems
Space-based systems are a core component of national critical infrastructures.
This is illustrated by the increasing use of satellite communications systems and by the range of industries that now rely on location and timing services from GPS etc. Software is at the heart of all complex, space-based systems. Both the space based and ground based components are vulnerable to cyber attacks, in particular from state sponsored agencies.
Our work focuses on the development of protection and mitigation techniques against cyber attacks on space based systems. Some of the techniques are relatively simple, for instance through the application of conventional security management techniques. Others are more complex, focusing on intrusion detection and pattern identification for a range of security threats.
This work is informed by involvement in the analysis of previous attacks against both civil and military applications. A unifying feature of our work is the need to coordinate, document and critically assess security concerns across the development and operational lifecycle of space systems.
Why is this research important?
Both the UK and US military have suffered recent attacks on their space-based infrastructures. Most incidents have involved the transfer of ‘conventional’ viruses typically from USB sticks to mass-market operating systems (eg Linux) during periodic updates. However, the STUXNET attacks and the coordinated denial of service on Georgian infrastructures justifies greater focus on this area. It is very much in its infancy and only a handful of research teams are addressing the topic.