Live demonstration for cyber resilience

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Safety & Security

11/01/2022
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ESA / Safety & Security

In brief

Applications are now being accepted to participate in Europe’s newest cybersecurity demonstration, bringing together cybersecurity experts to help ESA and European industry keep critical space services secure and resilient.

In-depth

During Cysec’s annual conference in April 2022, ESA’s OPS-SAT space lab will be made available to select, invited applicants to test their winning ideas in a controlled, robust environment – precisely the type of experiment the 30cm flying CubeSat was created for. The results will help ESA and European industry advance and further perfect cybersecurity in space.

Poor cybersecurity hurts us all

Cyber resilience is vital to protecting our institutions and economies from cyber threats

Exploitation of poor cyber-security does great damage to individuals, companies and our economies – as well as civil infrastructure including hospitals, public water supply systems and power grids. By interfering with critical services and blocking access to – or even destroying – data, poor cybersecurity that can be exploited by techniques such as hacking puts our modern world at risk.

Cybersecurity threats can disrupt or deny the service that satellites provide, from internet connectivity to location and communication services to weather forecasting and climate science. According to one report, cyber-attacks cost some €530 billion worldwide annually.

Nevertheless, in order to measure and improve the cybersecurity resilience of our systems and supporting processes we should seek to increase our understanding and awareness of these threats. One effective way of achieving this is to engage with cybersecurity experts and test our systems accordingly against representative cybersecurity threats.

The target

OPS-SAT is ESA’s ‘space lab’, allowing a robust space to test new, risky technologies and show the potential of future mission control capabilities

With a flight computer ten times more powerful than any current ESA spacecraft, OPS-SAT has already hosted in-flight experiments ranging across AI, deep learning and financial transactions to data relay, data compression and on-board automation.

“The in-built robustness of OPS-SAT makes it the perfect flying platform for ethical hackers to demonstrate their skills in a safe but suitably realistic environment,” explains Dave Evans, OPS-SAT Mission Manager.

“This is an exciting opportunity to engage with and learn from the best cybersecurity minds across Europe, using a platform specifically developed for learning lessons to improve our current and future missions.” 

The task

As part of the CYSAT conference to be held in Paris in April 2022, successful applicants selected from space and security professionals, students and other members of the public will have the chance to verify their cybersecurity experiments in space. The top three finalists will be judged on the creativity of their ideas, the technical feasibility of their proposed experiments, and the potential for storytelling.

OPS-SAT: ESA’s flying lab, open to all

Ideas should be submitted by 18 February 2022 and successful proposals will be given controlled, technical access to OPS-SAT for a live demo during the conference. The event will be technically very demanding, as teams will only have six-minute communication slots available with the satellite.

“Space assets play a critical role in many services that we use daily on Earth, so it makes sense to protect them as much as we do for security-critical services on the ground. We’re excited to bring our know-how around ethical hacking to this industry,” explains Romain Lecoeuvre, CTO of YesWeHack, a Paris-based software testing crowdsourcing company.

Because of the space sector’s vital importance to our lives, ESA is working to boost cybersecurity not only within the Agency but also across Europe, helping make spaceflight more resilient to attack and accelerate the integration of space systems and services with the terrestrial economy.

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