Sep 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump administration pushes for cybersecurity measures to protect satellites

The earth seen from the International Space Station, with city lights distantly connected on the surface of the planet
Photo: NASA

A new space policy directive issued by the Trump administration last week calls on the space industry to develop cybersecurity measures to protect essential satellites in orbit.

Why it matters: GPS, communications and other satellites are integral to U.S. national security. As other nations continue to develop their space capabilities, experts are warning that key U.S. assets in orbit could be vulnerable to attacks.

Details: The new policy directive loosely defines best practices when it comes to cybersecurity and the space industry.

  • The directive also outlines a plan for the U.S. government to work with companies to help adopt those best practices and create norms around cybersecurity.
  • The policy suggests space-based assets should make use of encryption when sending commands to satellites and when satellites are sending information to Earth and make efforts to protect satellites from tampering, jamming and spoofing.
  • "We're not trying to impose new government-driven, top-down requirements and standards, but are in fact trying to work with and leverage the private sector," a senior administration official speaking on background said.

Yes, but: Many companies have already instituted their own protocols for cybersecurity and their assets in space, so it's not yet clear exactly what this directive will change.

  • The White House also has yet to lay out an enforcement mechanism for those companies that ignore the best practices.
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