WASHINGTON: Officials from the National Security Council, Pentagon, State Department and Space Council, among other agencies, are meeting tomorrow with a new public-private center trying to figure out how and when to share information about cyber threats to space systems.
The Space Information and Analysis Sharing Center (Space-ISAC) is the newest of some 24 national ISACs set up since the 1990s to help US federal agencies work with industry sectors (such as aviation and national defense) to thwart, or if necessary recover from, cyber attacks by sharing information on vulnerabilities, mitigation measures, and response options. As Breaking D readers may remember, the Space-ISAC is a key priority for the National Security Council (NSC) and had its first board meeting in November to set up by-laws etc. It had its second board meeting today; its first official interagency meeting will be tomorrow.
The meeting will include representatives of the NSC, National Space Council, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and the Department of State, among others, according to Space-ISAC representatives.
Buy-in by DoD, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the Department of Homeland Security is critical, said Frank Backes, senior vice president of Kratos Federal Space and current Space-ISAC’s chair, because those three agencies have the most information on cyber threats to satellites and the space industry.
“They want to share that information,” he explained in a briefing with reporters this afternoon, “but they need help disseminating that information” in part due to difficulties with security classification. The Space-ISAC, Backes said, can provide a one-stop shop and help sort out how provide warnings in a way that is usable by the widest number of potentially affected commercial space companies — many of which are international.
Kratos is one of the founding members of the Space-ISAC, along with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mitre Corporation and Parsons. There are eight public board members at the moment, including (besides the previously mentioned): Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, SES and Purdue University,
While the group is still working to develop a full-blown threat matrix, Backes said, the space industry sub-sectors that are seen as critical to protect are: launch, space manufacturing, payload design and manufacturing, space-to-ground communications, satellite communications and systems integration.
It is no secret that US adversaries, such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, have been using cyber espionage to steal industry secrets, as well as stealing building and using cyber weapons to use to spoof GPS satellite signals, hack satellite guidance and control systems, disrupt ground facilities, etc.
The goal of Space-ISAC is to create a safe environment for satellite operators to quietly but effectively share information about cyber intrusions, as well as share the ways they have worked to mitigate any damage and patch security holes. In addition, Space-ISAC will share this information with the government, and feed government-generated information back to the members in an unclassified form.
This will be done primarily through a web portal that Space-ISAC intends to have up and running by this spring as an initial operating capability. The portal will be managed by the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) based in Colorado Springs, which also provides the group’s headquarters. Once that is working, the next step will be for the board members to reach out to colleagues in hopes of recruiting new members.
Chris Bogdan, senior vice president of aerospace for Booz Allen Hamilton, said that the group also will help members understand how to meet DoD’s new Cyber Maturity Model Certification that will be required for all companies doing business with the Pentagon to qualify for contracts. Indeed, he explained, cyber security down the supply chain is a key issue for the Space-ISAC to grapple with.
This is part of the group’s overall mission to help train space companies to improve cyber security.
Complicating the effort is the fact that many commercial space companies are international, even those most heavily relied upon by DoD. This is especially true in the area of satellite communications, where the US military relies on a wide variety of firms based all over the world to provide communications with troops stationed overseas. Thus, the Space-ISAC needs to be open to international firms, with SES S.A. based in Luxembourg the first international firm to sign up as a founding member.
On the other hand, Backes said, Space-ISAC cannot simply allow companies from countries deemed by the US as adversaries to join — although he explained that the distinction between which firms in the space arena are considered adversarial and which are not is “not black and white.”
One thorny example of where and how to draw the line is Russia. Considered a US military adversary, Russia closely partners with NASA, via Russia’s space agency Roskosmos and its space firms, on the International Space Station, with the Russian Soyuz spacecraft currently the only ride available to US astronauts. Backes admitted that this is a challenge the Space-ISAC has yet to resolve. (THERESA HITCHENS).