Defending Small Satellites from Malicious Cybersecurity Threats
Keywords:small satellite, space cybersecurity, software-defined radio, insider threat, integrity
The connection between space and cyberspace domains is increasingly intertwined. Advancements in space technology, decreasing costs for satellite development, and the use of commercial off-the-shelf products present many cybersecurity challenges to space infrastructure. Additionally, space-based global critical infrastructure makes the space domain a prime target for malicious cyber threats. Software-defined radios introduce a potential attack vector for adversaries planning malicious satellite activity. This paper demonstrates how an adversary would send malicious commands via a software-defined radio to affect the integrity of the sensors on the satellite running NASA's core Flight System software. The experiment demonstrates one possible threat vector using a commercially available USRP N210 software-defined radio. The results show that well-constructed messages can be created to manipulate sensors on a target small satellite system. Identifying cybersecurity vulnerabilities like these in space systems can improve security and prevent disruptions for the global space enterprise.
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