As earth-bound small and large businesses convulse from wave after wave of cyberattacks, the fast-growing space industry is worried that it could be next.

That is especially true as satellites, spaceships and booster rockets become more numerous, connected and software-defined – increasing the number of potential point of entries for cyber-criminals and nation-state bad actors.

Rendering of a Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite c Lockheed Martin

Source: Lockheed Martin

Navigation satellites are important infrastructure that need to be protected against cyberattacks

Industry executives from Lockheed Martin Space, Northrop Grumman Space Systems, and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, speaking at a Farnborough Connect webinar titled ”The Future of Space Security”, say that means it is important to design cybersecurity defences into space-bound products from the start to lower risks.

“You just got to know where you are at and how do you measure cyber strengths and weaknesses,” says Rick Ambrose, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin Space, who notes that might mean simulating potential cyber-attacks or intrusions to find vulnerabilities. Lockheed has developed a “cyber resiliency level” rating to assess different systems, he says.

To get ahead of potential problems, executives prescribe a DevSecOps approach to building space systems. DevSecOps is an engineering approach that emphasizes that everyone in the hardware and software build process – development, security and operations – is accountable for cybersecurity from the beginning.

“If you don’t build in that cybersecurity upfront you’re just going to have a more difficult time,” says Ambrose.

Space industry manufacturers also need to keep an eye on their supply chains and search out potential vulnerabilities, say executives.

Ultimately, the sector should move toward a “zero trust” approach to cybersecurity, where no piece of hardware is trusted by default, but must be verified continually as safe.

“It may sound hard, but we do it with zero defect systems [in manufacturing],” says Ambrose.

Ultimately, space-based technologies, such as communications, navigation and weather satellites, are hugely important to the world’s economy.

“Space is critical infrastructure to our society as a whole,” says Ambrose.