Protect Sensitive Information

Organizations should look to identify and properly classify mission sensitive design/operations information (e.g., fault management approach) and apply access control accordingly. Any location (ground system, contractor networks, etc.) storing design information needs to ensure design info is protected from exposure, exfiltration, etc. Space system sensitive information may be classified as Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or Company Proprietary. Space system sensitive information can typically include a wide range of candidate material: the functional and performance specifications, any ICDs (like radio frequency, ground-to-space, etc.), command and telemetry databases, scripts, simulation and rehearsal results/reports, descriptions of uplink protection including any disabling/bypass features, failure/anomaly resolution, and any other sensitive information related to architecture, software, and flight/ground /mission operations. This could all need protection at the appropriate level (e.g., unclassified, CUI, proprietary, classified, etc.) to mitigate levels of cyber intrusions that may be conducted against the project’s networks. Stand-alone systems and/or separate database encryption may be needed with controlled access and on-going Configuration Management to ensure changes in command procedures and critical database areas are tracked, controlled, and fully tested to avoid loss of science or the entire mission. Sensitive documentation should only be accessed by personnel with defined roles and a need to know. Well established access controls (roles, encryption at rest and transit, etc.) and data loss prevention (DLP) technology are key countermeasures. The DLP should be configured for the specific data types in question.

Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Ground Segment and Development Environment

NIST Rev5 Controls

D3FEND

ISO 27001

ID: CM0001
ESA Space Shield Mitigation:  M1043 | M1056 | M2019 | M2022 | M2035 | M2053 | M1041
Created: 2022/10/19
Last Modified: 2023/11/29

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
REC-0001 Gather Spacecraft Design Information Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's design that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information about the spacecraft can include software, firmware, encryption type, purpose, as well as various makes and models of subsystems.
.01 Software Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's internal software that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information (e.g. source code, binaries, etc.) about commercial, open-source, or custom developed software may include a variety of details such as types, versions, and memory maps. Leveraging this information threat actors may target vendors of operating systems, flight software, or open-source communities to embed backdoors or for performing reverse engineering research to support offensive cyber operations.
.02 Firmware Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's firmware that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information about the firmware may include a variety of details such as type and versions on specific devices, which may be used to infer more information (ex. configuration, purpose, age/patch level, etc.). Leveraging this information threat actors may target firmware vendors to embed backdoors or for performing reverse engineering research to support offensive cyber operations.
.03 Cryptographic Algorithms Threat actors may gather information about any cryptographic algorithms used on the victim spacecraft's that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information about the algorithms can include type and private keys. Threat actors may also obtain the authentication scheme (i.e., key/password/counter values) and leverage it to establish communications for commanding the target spacecraft or any of its subsystems. Some spacecraft only require authentication vice authentication and encryption, therefore once obtained, threat actors may use any number of means to command the spacecraft without needing to go through a legitimate channel. The authentication information may be obtained through reconnaissance of the ground system or retrieved from the victim spacecraft.
.04 Data Bus Threat actors may gather information about the data bus used within the victim spacecraft that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information about the data bus can include the make and model which could lead to more information (ex. protocol, purpose, controller, etc.), as well as locations/addresses of major subsystems residing on the bus. Threat actors may also gather information about the bus voltages of the victim spacecraft. This information can include optimal power levels, connectors, range, and transfer rate.
.05 Thermal Control System Threat actors may gather information about the thermal control system used with the victim spacecraft that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information gathered can include type, make/model, and varies analysis programs that monitor it.
.06 Maneuver & Control Threat actors may gather information about the station-keeping control systems within the victim spacecraft that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information gathered can include thruster types, propulsion types, attitude sensors, and data flows associated with the relevant subsystems.
.07 Payload Threat actors may gather information about the type(s) of payloads hosted on the victim spacecraft. This information could include specific commands, make and model, and relevant software. Threat actors may also gather information about the location of the payload on the bus and internal routing as it pertains to commands within the payload itself.
.08 Power Threat actors may gather information about the power system used within the victim spacecraft. This information can include type, power intake, and internal algorithms. Threat actors may also gather information about the solar panel configurations such as positioning, automated tasks, and layout. Additionally, threat actors may gather information about the batteries used within the victim spacecraft. This information can include the type, quantity, storage capacity, make and model, and location.
.09 Fault Management Threat actors may gather information about any fault management that may be present on the victim spacecraft. This information can help threat actors construct specific attacks that may put the spacecraft into a fault condition and potentially a more vulnerable state depending on the fault response.
REC-0002 Gather Spacecraft Descriptors Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's descriptors that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information about the descriptors may include a variety of details such as identity attributes, organizational structures, and mission operational parameters.
.01 Identifiers Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's identity attributes that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Information may include a variety of details such as the satellite catalog number, international designator, mission name, and more.
.02 Organization Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's associated organization(s) that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Collection efforts may target the mission owner/operator in order to conduct further attacks against the organization, individual, or other interested parties. Threat actors may also seek information regarding the spacecraft's designer/builder, including physical locations, key employees, and roles and responsibilities as they pertain to the spacecraft, as well as information pertaining to the mission's end users/customers.
.03 Operations Threat actors may gather information about the victim spacecraft's operations that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques. Collection efforts may target mission objectives, orbital parameters such as orbit slot and inclination, user guides and schedules, etc. Additionally, threat actors may seek information about constellation deployments and configurations where applicable.
REC-0003 Gather Spacecraft Communications Information Threat actors may obtain information on the victim spacecraft's communication channels in order to determine specific commands, protocols, and types. Information gathered can include commanding patterns, antenna shape and location, beacon frequency and polarization, and various transponder information.
.01 Communications Equipment Threat actors may gather information regarding the communications equipment and its configuration that will be used for communicating with the victim spacecraft. This includes: Antenna Shape: This information can help determine the range in which it can communicate, the power of it's transmission, and the receiving patterns. Antenna Configuration/Location: This information can include positioning, transmission frequency, wavelength, and timing. Telemetry Signal Type: Information can include timing, radio frequency wavelengths, and other information that can provide insight into the spacecraft's telemetry system. Beacon Frequency: This information can provide insight into where the spacecrafts located, what it's orbit is, and how long it can take to communicate with a ground station. Beacon Polarization: This information can help triangulate the spacecrafts it orbits the earth and determine how a satellite must be oriented in order to communicate with the victim spacecraft. Transponder: This could include the number of transponders per band, transponder translation factor, transponder mappings, power utilization, and/or saturation point.
.02 Commanding Details Threat actors may gather information regarding the commanding approach that will be used for communicating with the victim spacecraft. This includes: Commanding Signal Type: This can include timing, radio frequency wavelengths, and other information that can provide insight into the spacecraft's commanding system. Valid Commanding Patterns: Most commonly, this comes in the form of a command database, but can also include other means that provide information on valid commands and the communication protocols used by the victim spacecraft. Valid Commanding Periods: This information can provide insight into when a command will be accepted by the spacecraft and help the threat actor construct a viable attack campaign.
.03 Mission-Specific Channel Scanning Threat actors may seek knowledge about mission-specific communication channels dedicated to a payload. Such channels could be managed by a different organization than the owner of the spacecraft itself.
.04 Valid Credentials Threat actors may seek out valid credentials which can be utilized to facilitate several tactics throughout an attack. Credentials may include, but are not limited to: system service accounts, user accounts, maintenance accounts, cryptographic keys and other authentication mechanisms.
REC-0004 Gather Launch Information Threat actors may gather the launch date and time, location of the launch (country & specific site), organizations involved, launch vehicle, etc. This information can provide insight into protocols, regulations, and provide further targets for the threat actor, including specific vulnerabilities with the launch vehicle itself.
.01 Flight Termination Threat actor may obtain information regarding the vehicle's flight termination system. Threat actors may use this information to perform later attacks and target the vehicle's termination system to have desired impact on mission.
REC-0006 Gather FSW Development Information Threat actors may obtain information regarding the flight software (FSW) development environment for the victim spacecraft. This information may include the development environment, source code, compiled binaries, testing tools, and fault management.
.01 Development Environment Threat actors may gather information regarding the development environment for the victim spacecraft's FSW. This information can include IDEs, configurations, source code, environment variables, source code repositories, code "secrets", and compiled binaries.
.02 Security Testing Tools Threat actors may gather information regarding how a victim spacecraft is tested in regards to the FSW. Understanding the testing approach including tools could identify gaps and vulnerabilities that could be discovered and exploited by a threat actor.
REC-0007 Monitor for Safe-Mode Indicators Threat actors may gather information regarding safe-mode indicators on the victim spacecraft. Safe-mode is when all non-essential systems are shut down and only essential functions within the spacecraft are active. During this mode, several commands are available to be processed that are not normally processed. Further, many protections may be disabled at this time.
REC-0008 Gather Supply Chain Information Threat actors may gather information about a mission's supply chain or product delivery mechanisms that can be used for future campaigns or to help perpetuate other techniques.
.01 Hardware Threat actors may gather information that can be used to facilitate a future attack where they manipulate hardware components in the victim spacecraft prior to the customer receiving them in order to achieve data or system compromise. The threat actor can insert backdoors and give them a high level of control over the system when they modify the hardware or firmware in the supply chain. This would include ASIC and FPGA devices as well.
.02 Software Threat actors may gather information relating to the mission's software supply chain in order to facilitate future attacks to achieve data or system compromise. This attack can take place in a number of ways, including manipulation of source code, manipulation of the update and/or distribution mechanism, or replacing compiled versions with a malicious one.
.04 Business Relationships Adversaries may gather information about the victim's business relationships that can be used during targeting. Information about an mission’s business relationships may include a variety of details, including second or third-party organizations/domains (ex: managed service providers, contractors/sub-contractors, etc.) that have connected (and potentially elevated) network access or sensitive information. This information may also reveal supply chains and shipment paths for the victim’s hardware and software resources.
REC-0009 Gather Mission Information Threat actors may initially seek to gain an understanding of a target mission by gathering information commonly captured in a Concept of Operations (or similar) document and related artifacts. Information of interest includes, but is not limited to: - the needs, goals, and objectives of the system - system overview and key elements/instruments - modes of operations (including operational constraints) - proposed capabilities and the underlying science/technology used to provide capabilities (i.e., scientific papers, research studies, etc.) - physical and support environments
IA-0001 Compromise Supply Chain Threat actors may manipulate or compromise products or product delivery mechanisms before the customer receives them in order to achieve data or system compromise.
.01 Software Dependencies & Development Tools Threat actors may manipulate software dependencies (i.e. dependency confusion) and/or development tools prior to the customer receiving them in order to achieve data or system compromise. Software binaries and applications often depend on external software to function properly. spacecraft developers may use open source projects to help with their creation. These open source projects may be targeted by threat actors as a way to add malicious code to the victim spacecraft's dependencies.
.02 Software Supply Chain Threat actors may manipulate software binaries and applications prior to the customer receiving them in order to achieve data or system compromise. This attack can take place in a number of ways, including manipulation of source code, manipulation of the update and/or distribution mechanism, or replacing compiled versions with a malicious one.
IA-0007 Compromise Ground System Threat actors may initially compromise the ground system in order to access the target spacecraft. Once compromised, the threat actor can perform a multitude of initial access techniques, including replay, compromising FSW deployment, compromising encryption keys, and compromising authentication schemes. Threat actors may also perform further reconnaissance within the system to enumerate mission networks and gather information related to ground station logical topology, missions ran out of said ground station, birds that are in-band of targeted ground stations, and other mission system capabilities.
.01 Compromise On-Orbit Update Threat actors may manipulate and modify on-orbit updates before they are sent to the target spacecraft. This attack can be done in a number of ways, including manipulation of source code, manipulating environment variables, on-board table/memory values, or replacing compiled versions with a malicious one.
PER-0002 Backdoor Threat actors may find and target various backdoors, or inject their own, within the victim spacecraft in the hopes of maintaining their attack.
.02 Software Threat actors may inject code to create their own backdoor to establish persistent access to the spacecraft. This may be done through modification of code throughout the software supply chain or through modification of the software-defined radio configuration (if applicable).
PER-0005 Valid Credentials Threat actors may seek out valid credentials which can be utilized to maintain persistent access to the spacecraft or related C2 systems and facilitate additional tactics throughout an attack. Credentials may include, but are not limited to: system service accounts, user accounts, maintenance accounts, cryptographic keys and other authentication mechanisms.
DE-0011 Valid Credentials Threat actors may utilize valid credentials to conduct an attack against a spacecraft or related system as a means to conceal their activity. Credentials may include, but are not limited to: system service accounts, user accounts, maintenance accounts, cryptographic keys and other authentication mechanisms.
LM-0007 Valid Credentials Threat actors may utilize valid credentials move laterally across spacecraft subsystems, communication buses, or additional spacecraft in a constellation. Credentials may include, but are not limited to: system service accounts, user accounts, maintenance accounts, cryptographic keys and other authentication mechanisms.
EXF-0007 Compromised Ground System Threat actors may compromise target owned ground systems that can be used for future campaigns or to perpetuate other techniques. These ground systems have already been configured for communications to the victim spacecraft. By compromising this infrastructure, threat actors can stage, launch, and execute an operation. Threat actors may utilize these systems for various tasks, including Execution and Exfiltration.
EXF-0008 Compromised Developer Site Threat actors may compromise development environments located within the ground system or a developer/partner site. This attack can take place in a number of different ways, including manipulation of source code, manipulating environment variables, or replacing compiled versions with a malicious one. This technique is usually performed before the target spacecraft is in orbit, with the hopes of adding malicious code to the actual FSW during the development process.
EXF-0009 Compromised Partner Site Threat actors may compromise access to partner sites that can be used for future campaigns or to perpetuate other techniques. These sites are typically configured for communications to the primary ground station(s) or in some cases the spacecraft itself. Unlike mission operated ground systems, partner sites may provide an easier target for threat actors depending on the company, roles and responsibilities, and interests of the third-party. By compromising this infrastructure, threat actors can stage, launch, and execute an operation. Threat actors may utilize these systems for various tasks, including Execution and Exfiltration.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
SV-CF-2 Eavesdropping (RF and proximity)  
SV-MA-3 Attacks on critical software subsystems   Attitude Determination and Control (AD&C) subsystem determines and controls the orientation of the satellite. Any cyberattack that could disrupt some portion of the control loop - sensor data, computation of control commands, and receipt of the commands would impact operations   Telemetry, Tracking and Commanding (TT&C) subsystem provides interface between satellite and ground system. Computations occur within the RF portion of the TT&C subsystem, presenting cyberattack vector   Command and Data Handling (C&DH) subsystem is the brains of the satellite. It interfaces with other subsystems, the payload, and the ground. It receives, validate, decodes, and sends commands to other subsystems, and it receives, processes, formats, and routes data for both the ground and onboard computer. C&DH has the most cyber content and is likely the biggest target for cyberattack.   Electrical Power Subsystem (EPS) provides, stores, distributes, and controls power on the satellite. An attack on EPS could disrupt, damage, or destroy the satellite.  
SV-AC-8 Malicious Use of hardware commands - backdoors / critical commands  
SV-AV-5 Using fault management system against you. Understanding the fault response could be leveraged to get satellite in vulnerable state. Example, safe mode with crypto bypass, orbit correction maneuvers, affecting integrity of TLM to cause action from ground, or some sort of RPO to cause S/C to go into safe mode;  
SV-CF-3 Knowledge of target satellite's cyber-related design details would be crucial to inform potential attacker - so threat is leaking of design data which is often stored Unclass or on contractors’ network  
SV-MA-4 Not knowing what your crown jewels are and how to protect them now and in the future.  
SV-SP-4 General supply chain interruption or manipulation