Operating System Security

Ensure spacecraft's operating system is scrutinized/whitelisted and has received adequate software assurance previously. The operating system should be analyzed for its attack surface and non-utilized features should be stripped from the operating system. Many real-time operating systems contain features that are not necessary for spacecraft operations and only increase the attack surface.

Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Development Environment

NIST Rev5 Controls

ID: CM0047
Created: 2022/10/19
Last Modified: 2022/12/08

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
EX-0009 Exploit Code Flaws Threats actors may identify and exploit flaws or weaknesses within the software running on-board the target spacecraft. These attacks may be extremely targeted and tailored to specific coding errors introduced as a result of poor coding practices or they may target known issues in the commercial software components.
.02 Operating System Threat actors may exploit flaws in the operating system code, which controls the storage, memory management, provides resources to the FSW, and controls the bus. There has been a trend where some modern spacecraft are running Unix-based operating systems and establishing SSH connections for communications between the ground and spacecraft. Threat actors may seek to gain access to command line interfaces & shell environments in these instances. Additionally, most operating systems, including real-time operating systems, include API functionality for operator interaction. Threat actors may seek to exploit these or abuse a vulnerability/misconfiguration to maliciously execute code or commands.
EX-0010 Malicious Code Threat actors may rely on other tactics and techniques in order to execute malicious code on the victim spacecraft. This can be done via compromising the supply chain or development environment in some capacity or taking advantage of known commands. However, once malicious code has been uploaded to the victim spacecraft, the threat actor can then trigger the code to run via a specific command or wait for a legitimate user to trigger it accidently. The code itself can do a number of different things to the hosted payload, subsystems, or underlying OS.
.01 Ransomware Threat actors may encrypt spacecraft data to interrupt availability and usability. Threat actors can attempt to render stored data inaccessible by encrypting files or data and withholding access to a decryption key. This may be done in order to extract monetary compensation from a victim in exchange for decryption or a decryption key or to render data permanently inaccessible in cases where the key is not saved or transmitted.
.02 Wiper Malware Threat actors may deploy wiper malware, which is a type of malicious software designed to destroy data or render it unusable. Wiper malware can spread through various means, software vulnerabilities (CWE/CVE), or by exploiting weak or stolen credentials.
.03 Rootkit Rootkits are programs that hide the existence of malware by intercepting/hooking and modifying operating system API calls that supply system information. Rootkits or rootkit enabling functionality may reside at the flight software or kernel level in the operating system or lower, to include a hypervisor, Master Boot Record, or System Firmware.
.04 Bootkit Adversaries may use bootkits to persist on systems and evade detection. Bootkits reside at a layer below the operating system and may make it difficult to perform full remediation unless an organization suspects one was used and can act accordingly.
LM-0005 Virtualization Escape In virtualized environments, threat actors can use the open ports between the partitions to overcome the hypervisor's protection and damage another partition. Further, if the threat actor has compromised the payload, access to a critical partition can be gained through ports allowed by hypervisor.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
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-SP-1 Exploitation of software vulnerabilities (bugs); Unsecure code, logic errors, etc. in the FSW.  
SV-SP-3 Introduction of malicious software such as a virus, worm, Distributed Denial-Of-Service (DDOS) agent, keylogger, rootkit, or Trojan Horse  
SV-SP-6 Software reuse, COTS dependence, and standardization of onboard systems using building block approach with addition of open-source technology leads to supply chain threat  
SV-SP-9 On-orbit software updates/upgrades/patches/direct memory writes. If TT&C is compromised or MOC or even the developer's environment, the risk exists to do a variation of a supply chain attack where after it is in orbit you inject malicious code  
SV-SP-7 Software can be broken down into three levels (operating system and drivers’ layer, data handling service layer, and the application layer). Highest impact on system is likely the embedded code at the BIOS, kernel/firmware level. Attacking the on-board operating systems. Since it manages all the programs and applications on the computer, it has a critical role in the overall security of the system. Since threats may occur deliberately or due to human error, malicious programs or persons, or existing system vulnerability mitigations must be deployed to protect the OS.  
SV-MA-6 Not planning for security on SV or designing in security from the beginning