Satcoms and Security

Satcoms and Security

With more people and businesses than ever before using satellite communication technology, what measures need to be addressed to keep them cybersecure?

Satellite communications are being used in so many different ways, anything from tracking animals, voice communications for lone workers to vital environmental monitoring. Its uses and audiences are only set to grow with the ease of access and cheaper costs for this type of technology. In turn this makes the world of satellite more appealing and accessible to those who may want to disrupt and harm businesses or governments on an international scale. It is therefore imperative for organisations and individuals to review what the best practices are for this type of communication technology.

There are 3 elements to transmitting information over a satellite network, that could be vulnerable to an attack:

  1. The End user/ Field equipment
  2. The Satellite
  3. The Ground Infrastructure

As the owner of the end user/ field equipment that will be transmitting the information or data, you can take steps to keep your equipment and network safe. The configuration and how the device is installed can be easily changed not only at the installation point, but for so many devices can be regularly updated and monitored remotely. For example:

  • Make sure the username and password details are not the default settings, but bespoke to each individual device.
  • Install protection to the power source and data cables connected to the device.
  • Regularly update the firmware or software, taking note of what those changes will affect or why they have been added/ updated.
  • Decide if the device needs to be constantly connected to the network, If a device is online 24/7 then it is accessible 24/7 to all parties making it a lot easier to utilise maliciously.

The Satellite that is located upto 36,000km away should not be forgotten. Each operator is monitoring all of their hardware constantly. Many new networks have built in anti- jamming technology, and if they notice any type of interference or noise, they take necessary action to block this type of activity. The satellite operators are well aware of the risks of cyberattacks, and the need to address the concerns of their clientele, therefore they are now designing networks to accommodate this. Many providers are also now working together as such organisations as the SATCOM- ISAC- Information Sharing and Analysis Center allows networks to share information, have been created.

The right connectivity from the ground station to datacentres or offices is essential. Where possible I would recommend a direct interconnect into the satellite providers infrastructure, avoiding any public internet access or routing at all costs. If possible and the investment can be justified, hosting your own ground station could have huge cybersecurity benefits as no third party would be required. I have also seen many recent requests from customers with regard to accessing online portal and platforms for managing networks. I would urge those to understand fully what can be accomplished through a platform such as this, and how secure the access is to this type of control and information. Access to the wrong person could be fatal to an entire network in some cases.

 Finally what action can be taken right now to address this ever evolving issue?

  • Talk to your satellite communication provider
  • Work with and educate all personnel on the risks and consequences of cyberattacks
  • Review and perform company procedures
  • Trust in the Technology- without this industries cannot progress, learn and evolve.

Kay Barber