On-board Message Encryption

In addition to authentication on-board the spacecraft bus, encryption is also recommended to protect the confidentiality of the data traversing the bus.

Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Space Segment

NIST Rev5 Controls

ID: CM0050
Created: 2022/10/19
Last Modified: 2022/12/08

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
EX-0014 Spoofing Threat actors may attempt to spoof the various sensor and controller data that is depended upon by various subsystems within the victim spacecraft. Subsystems rely on this data to perform automated tasks, process gather data, and return important information to the ground controllers. By spoofing this information, threat actors could trigger automated tasks to fire when they are not needed to, potentially causing the spacecraft to behave erratically. Further, the data could be processed erroneously, causing ground controllers to receive incorrect telemetry or scientific data, threatening the spacecraft's reliability and integrity.
.02 Bus Traffic Threat actors may attempt to target the main or secondary bus onboard the victim spacecraft and spoof their data. The spacecraft bus often directly processes and sends messages from the ground controllers to the various subsystems within the spacecraft and between the subsystems themselves. If a threat actor would target this system and spoof it internally, the subsystems would take the spoofed information as legitimate and process it as normal. This could lead to undesired effects taking place that could damage the spacecraft's subsystems, hosted payload, and critical data.
.03 Sensor Data Threat actors may target sensor data on the space vehicle to achieve their attack objectives. Sensor data is typically inherently trusted by the space vehicle therefore an attractive target for a threat actor. Spoofing the sensor data could affect the calculations and disrupt portions of a control loop as well as create uncertainty within the mission thereby creating temporary denial of service conditions for the mission. Affecting the integrity of the sensor data can have varying impacts on the space vehicle depending on decisions being made by the space vehicle using the sensor data. For example, spoofing data related to attitude control could adversely impact the space vehicles ability to maintain orbit.
LM-0002 Exploit Lack of Bus Segregation Threat actors may exploit victim spacecraft on-board flat architecture for lateral movement purposes. Depending on implementation decisions, spacecraft can have a completely flat architecture where remote terminals, sub-systems, payloads, etc. can all communicate on the same main bus without any segmentation, authentication, etc. Threat actors can leverage this poor design to send specially crafted data from one compromised devices or sub-system. This could enable the threat actor to laterally move to another area of the spacecraft or escalate privileges (i.e., bus master, bus controller)
LM-0004 Visiting Vehicle Interface(s) Threat actors may move from one spacecraft to another through visiting vehicle interfaces. When a vehicle docks with a spacecraft, many programs are automatically triggered in order to ensure docking mechanisms are locked. This entails several data points and commands being sent to and from the spacecraft and the visiting vehicle. If a threat actor were to compromise a visiting vehicle, they could target these specific programs in order to send malicious commands to the victim spacecraft once docked.
EXF-0002 Side-Channel Attack Threat actors may use a side-channel attack attempts to gather information by measuring or exploiting indirect effects of the spacecraft. Information within the spacecraft can be extracted through these side-channels in which sensor data is analyzed in non-trivial ways to recover subtle, hidden or unexpected information. A series of measurements of a side-channel constitute an identifiable signature which can then be matched against a signature database to identify target information, without having to explicitly decode the side-channel.
.02 Electromagnetic Leakage Attacks Threat actors can leverage electromagnetic emanations to obtain sensitive information. The electromagnetic radiations attain importance when they are hardware generated emissions, especially emissions from the cryptographic module. Electromagnetic leakage attacks have been shown to be more successful than power analysis attacks on chicards. If proper protections are not in place on the spacecraft, the circuitry is exposed and hence leads to stronger emanations of EM radiations. If the circuitry is exposed, it provides an easier environment to study the electromagnetic emanations from each individual component.
.03 Traffic Analysis Attacks In a terrestrial environment, threat actors use traffic analysis attacks to analyze traffic flow to gather topological information. This traffic flow can divulge information about critical nodes, such as the aggregator node in a sensor network. In the space environment, specifically with relays and constellations, traffic analysis can be used to understand the energy capacity of spacecraft node and the fact that the transceiver component of a spacecraft node consumes the most power. The spacecraft nodes in a constellation network limit the use of the transceiver to transmit or receive information either at a regulated time interval or only when an event has been detected. This generally results in an architecture comprising some aggregator spacecraft nodes within a constellation network. These spacecraft aggregator nodes are the sensor nodes whose primary purpose is to relay transmissions from nodes toward the ground station in an efficient manner, instead of monitoring events like a normal node. The added functionality of acting as a hub for information gathering and preprocessing before relaying makes aggregator nodes an attractive target to side channel attacks. A possible side channel attack could be as simple as monitoring the occurrences and duration of computing activities at an aggregator node. If a node is frequently in active states (instead of idle states), there is high probability that the node is an aggregator node and also there is a high probability that the communication with the node is valid. Such leakage of information is highly undesirable because the leaked information could be strategically used by threat actors in the accumulation phase of an attack.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
SV-CF-2 Eavesdropping (RF and proximity)  
SV-IT-2 Unauthorized modification or corruption of data  
SV-AC-6 Three main parts of S/C. CPU, memory, I/O interfaces with parallel and/or serial ports. These are connected via busses (i.e., 1553) and need segregated. Supply chain attack on CPU (FPGA/ASICs), supply chain attack to get malware burned into memory through the development process, and rogue RTs on 1553 bus via hosted payloads are all threats. Security or fault management being disabled by non-mission critical or payload; fault injection or MiTM into the 1553 Bus - China has developed fault injector for 1553 - this could be a hosted payload attack if payload has access to main 1553 bus; One piece of FSW affecting another. Things are not containerized from the OS or FSW perspective;  
SV-AV-2 Satellites base many operations on timing especially since many operations are automated. Cyberattack to disrupt timing/timers could affect the vehicle (Time Jamming / Time Spoofing)  
SV-AC-1 Attempting access to an access-controlled system resulting in unauthorized access  
SV-IT-1 Communications system spoofing resulting in denial of service and loss of availability and data integrity