Space-based assets aren’t immune to cyberattacks

Russia’s attack on Viasat satellites exposed how vulnerable space-based assets are and the potential for spillover damage.

One of the most significant cybersecurity incidents related to Russia’s war on Ukraine was a “multi-faceted” attack against satellite provider Viasat’s KA-SAT network on February 24, one hour before Russia’s invasion began. The assault, which both Ukraine and Western intelligence authorities attribute to Russia, was intended to degrade the Ukrainian national command and control.

However, the attack, which was localized to a single consumer KA-SAT network operated on Viasat’s behalf by another satellite company, a Eutelsat subsidiary called Skylogic, disrupted broadband service to several thousand Ukrainian customers and tens of thousands of other fixed broadband customers across Europe. It also highlighted how space-based assets, such as satellites are as vulnerable to malicious exploitation as any other piece of critical infrastructure.

Against this backdrop, the timing was perfect for the Space Cybersecurity Symposium III hosted by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last week. “The multi-faceted and deliberate cyberattacks which took place during the invasion highlight the need for the United States Government to work with our international partners as well as the private sector to strengthen cyber resilience of existing and future space systems,” said Richard DalBello, director, U.S. Office of Space Commerce, National Oceanic, and Atmospheric Administration, said in kicking off the summit.

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