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Space Systems Should Be the 17th Critical Infrastructure, Cyberspace Solarium Commission Recommends

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Space systems should be designated as the 17th critical infrastructure, joining the likes of energy, transportation, manufacturing, communications and others that receive the “attention or resources” to protect them from domestic and foreign adversaries, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission 2.0 (CSC) said in a new report.

“Major portions of American space systems are still not designated as critical infrastructure and do not receive the attention or resources such a designation would entail,” the report said. “The majority of today’s space systems were developed under the premise that space was a sanctuary from conflict, but this is no longer the case. The threat from Russia and China is growing.”

The Space Security Imperative

In response, the U.S. needs a “more concerted and coherent” approach that involves both the public and private sector to protect space systems infrastructure, the report said. To conduct its research, the CSC interviewed some 30 industry and government officials and concluded that designating space systems as a U.S. critical infrastructure would make clear to the nation’s adversaries that “space security and resilience is a top priority.”

The term “space systems” encompasses the “ecosystem from ground to orbit, including sensors and signals, data and payloads, and critical technologies and supply chains,” the commission said.

As the CSC explained:

“Protecting space systems will require an enhanced model of public-private partnership with genuinely shared risk management responsibilities. On the government side, the agency that serves as lead sector risk management agency (SRMA) for this sector will have a demanding task — but one that NASA is well suited to fulfill so long as it receives the extra resources necessary to develop its capacity to protect national security, civil, and commercial systems."

U.S. Space Force Introduces Digital Bloodhound

Along those lines, earlier this month, the U.S. Space Force (USSF), a military service established in 2019 amid widespread recognition that space is a national security imperative, said it will award a contract later this fiscal year for its Digital Bloodhound program to detect cyber threats. Digital Bloodhound is focused on cyberattacks against ground facilities. These include satellite command and control stations, which are slotted in the Space Force’s Defense Cyber Operations–Space (DCO-S) program.

Late last year, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) found the Russia-backed hacker group Fancy Bear (APT28) had infiltrated a U.S. satellite network.

More About the Cyberspace Solarium Commission

The CSC was formed in 2019 and composed of Congressional members, former government officials and private sector executives tasked with forming a strategy to defend the nation against cyberattacks. It’s reasonable to assume that the CSC’s space recommendation will be taken seriously owing to its highly successful track record.

In its inaugural report in 2019, the CSC some 85% of its 82 recommendations were adopted across multiple agencies, including the creation of a national cyber director. Also, a new Bureau of Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies, run by an assistant secretary of state, is tasked with developing and reinforcing “international norms” in cyberspace.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.