White House Memo Looks Ahead to Cybersecurity in Outer Space

Space shuttle flight over space nebula. (Image: NASA/Shutterstock)

In preparation for Federal efforts in outer space, the Trump Administration is calling on leaders across government to prepare space IT systems against cyberattacks before launch.

A memo dated September 4 explains that as space systems are reliant on information systems and networks throughout every step of their lifecycle, the technology in place is vulnerable to malicious activities that would disrupt U.S. space missions. Plus, in space, there aren’t IT specialists available ready to work on malfunctioning systems or recover from attacks.

“For this reason,” the memo states, “integrating cybersecurity into all phases of development and ensuring full life-cycle cybersecurity are critical for space systems.”

The White House advocates for a culture of prevention, active defense, risk management, and sharing best practices to uphold the integrity of U.S. space systems. In the memo, the administration also guides agencies to work with the commercial space industry and other non-government space organizations for further definition of best practices and establishing cyber norms.

Space IT systems should be developed to continuously anticipate and adapt to evolving cyber activities, the memo states. Owners and operators of the space IT systems should also be developing and implementing capabilities to ensure that control centers can retain control of systems in the event of cyber mishaps. Generally, ground systems and operational technology that the space systems rely on should be aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework.

While the memo places cybersecurity as a clear priority for space leadership, it also noted that the security measures should be designed to minimize “undue burden” on operators.

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.

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