Lt. Gen. Whiting: “Cyberspace is the soft underside of our global space networks”
COLORADO SPRINGS – The most likely form of attack on satellite networks today is not in space but on the ground where hackers are trying exploit vulnerabilities. “Cyberspace is the soft underside of our global space networks,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of the US Space Force’s Space Operations Command.
In conversation with SpaceNewsWhiting said the command is now trying to move cybersecurity specialists protecting desktop systems on Space Force bases into more sophisticated roles defending military satellite networks.
“We want to channel more of these Guardians into the defensive cyber mission,” Whiting said. Network security on bases is important, “but we think there are other ways we can come after this mission, like going to commercial services.”
That shift has already begun at Buckley Space Force Base in Colorado, where Guardians operate sensitive systems like GPS and early warning satellites.
Many of the satellites that the US military relies on for vital services “were built or designed during a time when we weren’t concerned about cyber threats,” Whiting said. “Our global space networks span the globe, reaching geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the surface of the earth, and that creates a lot of novel attack vectors for someone to try to attack us on the internet.”
Even though China and Russia have shown that they could physically try to attack US satellites in space, “we think they prefer cyberattacks and would probably start with them, and certainly countries like North Korea and Iran that are in space wouldn’t be as high.” are definitely trying to attack us in cyber.
“And that’s why we have to defend this entire attack surface,” Whiting said. “I would say we have spent a lot of time, effort and energy today improving both our cybersecurity posture and our cyber defenses. We are making real progress there, but there is still a lot to do.”
Space Delta 6, a unit within Space Operations Command, operates the military’s satellite control network and is also responsible for defensive cyber operations, including protecting the GPS constellation. The unit also has “Mission Defense Teams” that constantly monitor network traffic.
A separate entity, Space Delta 3, focuses on space electromagnetic warfare designed to protect satellites radio frequency interference. Satellites providing services over war zones are often subject to jamming attacks.