Threat actor is trying to get point of presence/command execution on the spacecraft
|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.
|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.
|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.
|Hardware Supply Chain
|Threat actors may 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. A spacecraft component can also be damaged if a specific HW component, built to fail after a specific period, or counterfeit with a low reliability, breaks out.
|Compromise Software Defined Radio
|Threat actors may target software defined radios due to their software nature to establish C2 channels. Since SDRs are programmable, when combined with supply chain or development environment attacks, SDRs provide a pathway to setup covert C2 channels for a threat actor.
|Crosslink via Compromised Neighbor
|Threat actors may compromise a victim spacecraft via the crosslink communications of a neighboring spacecraft that has been compromised. spacecraft in close proximity are able to send commands back and forth. Threat actors may be able to leverage this access to compromise other spacecraft once they have access to another that is nearby.
|Secondary/Backup Communication Channel
|Threat actors may compromise alternative communication pathways which may not be as protected as the primary pathway. Depending on implementation the contingency communication pathways/solutions may lack the same level of security (i.e., physical security, encryption, authentication, etc.) which if forced to use could provide a threat actor an opportunity to launch attacks. Typically these would have to be coupled with other denial of service techniques on the primary pathway to force usage of secondary pathways.
|Threat actors may establish a foothold within the backup ground/mission operations center (MOC) and then perform attacks to force primary communication traffic through the backup communication channel so that other TTPs can be executed (man-in-the-middle, malicious commanding, malicious code, etc.). While an attacker would not be required to force the communications through the backup channel vice waiting until the backup is used for various reasons. Threat actors can also utilize compromised ground stations to chain command execution and payload delivery across geo-separated ground stations to extend reach and maintain access on spacecraft. The backup ground/MOC should be considered a viable attack vector and the appropriate/equivalent security controls from the primary communication channel should be on the backup ground/MOC as well.
|Threat actors may target the backup/secondary receiver on the space vehicle as a method to inject malicious communications into the mission. The secondary receivers may come from different supply chains than the primary which could have different level of security and weaknesses. Similar to the ground station, the communication through the secondary receiver could be forced or happening naturally.
|Rendezvous & Proximity Operations
|Threat actors may perform a space rendezvous which is a set of orbital maneuvers during which a spacecraft arrives at the same orbit and approach to a very close distance (e.g. within visual contact or close proximity) to a target spacecraft.
|Threat actors in close proximity may intercept and analyze electromagnetic radiation emanating from crypto equipment and/or the target spacecraft(i.e., main bus) to determine whether the emanations are information bearing. The data could be used to establish initial access.
|Docked Vehicle / OSAM
|Threat actors may leverage docking vehicles to laterally move into a target spacecraft. If information is known on docking plans, a threat actor may target vehicles on the ground or in space to deploy malware to laterally move or execute malware on the target spacecraft via the docking interface.
|Threat actors may posses the capability to grapple target spacecraft once it has established the appropriate space rendezvous. If from a proximity / rendezvous perspective a threat actor has the ability to connect via docking interface or expose testing (i.e., JTAG port) once it has grappled the target spacecraft, they could perform various attacks depending on the access enabled via the physical connection.
|Compromise Hosted Payload
|Threat actors may compromise the target spacecraft hosted payload to initially access and/or persist within the system. Hosted payloads can usually be accessed from the ground via a specific command set. The command pathways can leverage the same ground infrastructure or some host payloads have their own ground infrastructure which can provide an access vector as well. Threat actors may be able to leverage the ability to command hosted payloads to upload files or modify memory addresses in order to compromise the system. Depending on the implementation, hosted payloads may provide some sort of lateral movement potential.
|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.
|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.
|Malicious Commanding via Valid GS
|Threat actors may compromise target owned ground systems components (e.g., front end processors, command and control software, etc.) that can be used for future campaigns or to perpetuate other techniques. These ground systems components 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.
|Rogue External Entity
|Threat actors may gain access to a victim spacecraft through the use of a rogue external entity. With this technique, the threat actor does not need access to a legitimate ground station or communication site.
|Rogue Ground Station
|Threat actors may gain access to a victim spacecraft through the use of a rogue ground system. With this technique, the threat actor does not need access to a legitimate ground station or communication site.
|Threat actors may gain access to a target spacecraft using their own spacecraft that has the capability to maneuver within close proximity to a target spacecraft to carry out a variety of TTPs (i.e., eavesdropping, side-channel, etc.). Since many of the commercial and military assets in space are tracked, and that information is publicly available, attackers can identify the location of space assets to infer the best positioning for intersecting orbits. Proximity operations support avoidance of the larger attenuation that would otherwise affect the signal when propagating long distances, or environmental circumstances that may present interference.
|Threat actors may utilize counterspace platforms to access/impact spacecraft. These counterspace capabilities vary significantly in the types of effects they create, the level of technological sophistication required, and the level of resources needed to develop and deploy them. These diverse capabilities also differ in how they are employed and how easy they are to detect and attribute and the permanence of the effects they have on their target.* *https://aerospace.csis.org/aerospace101/counterspace-weapons-101
|Access through trusted third-party relationship exploits an existing connection that has been approved for interconnection. Leveraging third party / approved interconnections to pivot into the target systems is a common technique for threat actors as these interconnections typically lack stringent access control due to the trusted status.
|Mission Collaborator (academia, international, etc.)
|Threat actors may seek to exploit mission partners to gain an initial foothold for pivoting into the mission environment and eventually impacting the spacecraft. The complex nature of many space systems rely on contributions across organizations, including academic partners and even international collaborators. These organizations will undoubtedly vary in their system security posture and attack surface.
|Threat actors may target the trust between vendors and the target space vehicle. Missions often grant elevated access to vendors in order to allow them to manage internal systems as well as cloud-based environments. The vendor's access may be intended to be limited to the infrastructure being maintained but it may provide laterally movement into the target space vehicle. Attackers may leverage security weaknesses in the vendor environment to gain access to more critical mission resources or network locations. In the space vehicle context vendors may have direct commanding and updating capabilities outside of the primary communication channel.
|Threat actors can target the user segment in an effort to laterally move into other areas of the end-to-end mission architecture. When user segments are interconnected, threat actors can exploit lack of segmentation as the user segment's security undoubtedly varies in their system security posture and attack surface than the primary space mission. The user equipment and users themselves provide ample attack surface as the human element and their vulnerabilities (i.e., social engineering, phishing, iOT) are often the weakest security link and entry point into many systems.
|Exploit Reduced Protections During Safe-Mode
|Threat actors may take advantage of the victim spacecraft being in safe mode and send malicious commands that may not otherwise be processed. 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.
|Auxiliary Device Compromise
|Threat actors may exploit the auxiliary/peripheral devices that get plugged into space vehicles. It is no longer atypical to see space vehicles, especially CubeSats, with Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports or other ports where auxiliary/peripheral devices can be plugged in. Threat actors can execute malicious code on the space vehicles by copying the malicious code to auxiliary/peripheral devices and taking advantage of logic on the space vehicle to execute code on these devices. This may occur through manual manipulation of the auxiliary/peripheral devices, modification of standard IT systems used to initially format/create the auxiliary/peripheral device, or modification to the auxiliary/peripheral devices' firmware itself.
|Assembly, Test, and Launch Operation Compromise
|Threat actors may target the spacecraft hardware and/or software while the spacecraft is at Assembly, Test, and Launch Operation (ATLO). ATLO is often the first time pieces of the spacecraft are fully integrated and exchanging data across interfaces. Malware could propagate from infected devices across the integrated spacecraft. For example, test equipment (i.e., transient cyber asset) is often brought in for testing elements of the spacecraft. Additionally, varying levels of physical security is in place which may be a reduction in physical security typically seen during development. The ATLO environment should be considered a viable attack vector and the appropriate/equivalent security controls from the primary development environment should be implemented during ATLO as well.