Dummy Process - Aggregator Node

According to Securing Sensor Nodes Against Side Channel Attacks, it is practically inefficient to prevent adversaries from identifying aggregator nodes in a network (i.e., constellation) because camouflaging traffic in sensor networks is power intensive. Consequently, focus on preventing adversaries from identifying valid aggregation cycles of aggregator nodes. One solution to counter such attacks is to have each aggregator node execute dummy operations that resemble the average power consumption curve observed during the normal operation of the aggregator node. Apart from simulating the power consumption of a genuine process execution, the two necessities that the execution of the dummy process must incorporate to be successful in thwarting the accumulation phase are to use a different dummy execution process each time or have a low repetition rate. This should help prevent the attacker from finding a pattern that would differentiate the execution of a dummy process from the normal execution of an aggregator node. The second requirement relates to the timing of the execution of the dummy process. Depending on whether there is a pattern to the timing of the execution of a dummy process, a threat actor may be able to identify and disregard the dummy process. For example, if a threat actor is capable of identifying the presence or absence of a radio frequency transmission, the attacker can disregard any power consumption curve computed during the absence of transmission signal. Similarly, if the dummy process is not executed every time the aggregator node receives a transmission, the attacker will be able to identify invalid transmission. Hence, to ensure the effectiveness of this scheme, the dummy process must be executed each time the aggregator receives a transmission as well as randomly during idle periods. The advantage of incorporating dummy processes in an aggregator is to minimize the ease of identifying transmission flow in a sensor network that can be used to identify the base station of the sensor network, which could be highly confidential in critical applications.


Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Space Segment

NIST Rev5 Controls

D3FEND Techniques

D3FEND Artifacts

ISO 27001

ID: CM0062
NASA Best Practice Guide:  MI-AUTH-01 | MI-AUTH-02 | MI-INTG-01 | MI-DCO-02
ESA Space Shield Mitigation: 
Created: 2022/10/19
Last Modified: 2023/10/17

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
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.
.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-AC-5 Proximity operations (i.e., grappling satellite)  

Low-Level Requirements

Requirement Rationale/Additional Guidance/Notes
The [spacecraft] shall not employ a mode of operations where cryptography on the TT&C link can be disabled (i.e., crypto-bypass mode).{SV-AC-1,SV-CF-1,SV-CF-2}{AC-3(10),SA-8(18),SA-8(19),SC-16(2),SC-16(3),SC-40(4)}
The [spacecraft] shall fail securely to a secondary device in the event of an operational failure of a primary boundary protection device (i.e., crypto solution).{SV-AC-1,SV-AC-2,SV-CF-1,SV-CF-2}{CP-13,SA-8(19),SA-8(24),SC-7(18),SI-13,SI-13(4)}
The [spacecraft] shall implement cryptography for the indicated uses using the indicated protocols, algorithms, and mechanisms, in accordance with applicable federal laws, Executive Orders, directives, policies, regulations, and standards: [NSA- certified or approved cryptography for protection of classified information, FIPS-validated cryptography for the provision of hashing].{SV-AC-1,SV-AC-2,SV-CF-1,SV-CF-2,SV-AC-3}{IA-7,SC-13}
The [spacecraft] shall protect system components, associated data communications, and communication buses in accordance with: (i) national emissions and TEMPEST policies and procedures, and (ii) the security category or sensitivity of the transmitted information.{SV-CF-2,SV-MA-2}{PE-14,PE-19,PE-19(1),RA-5(4),SA-8(18),SA-8(19),SC-8(1)} The measures taken to protect against compromising emanations must be in accordance with DODD S-5200.19, or superseding requirements. The concerns addressed by this control during operation are emanations leakage between multiple payloads within a single space platform, and between payloads and the bus.
The [organization] shall describe (a) the separation between RED and BLACK cables, (b) the filtering on RED power lines, (c) the grounding criteria for the RED safety grounds, (d) and the approach for dielectric separators on any potential fortuitous conductors.{SV-CF-2,SV-MA-2}{PE-19,PE-19(1)}
The [spacecraft] shall be designed such that it protects itself from information leakage due to electromagnetic signals emanations.{SV-CF-2,SV-MA-2}{PE-19,PE-19(1),RA-5(4),SA-8(19)} This requirement applies if system components are being designed to address EMSEC and the measures taken to protect against compromising emanations must be in accordance with DODD S-5200.19, or superseding requirements.
The [spacecraft] shall provide the capability for data connection ports or input/output devices to be disabled or removed prior to spacecraft operations.{SV-AC-5}{SA-9(2),SC-7(14),SC-41,SC-51} Intent is for external physical data ports to be disabled (logical or physical) while in operational orbit. Port disablement does not necessarily need to be irreversible.
The [spacecraft] shall protect the confidentiality and integrity of the [all information] using cryptography while it is at rest.{SV-IT-2,SV-CF-2}{SC-28,SC-28(1),SI-7(6)} * Information at rest refers to the state of information when it is located on storage devices as specific components of information systems. This is often referred to as data-at-rest encryption.