The SATCOM industry is rapidly shifting to IP-based platforms . The use of IP technologies is good for satellite carriers and their clientele as it lowers costs while improving performance and interoperability. However, this trend also introduces increased cyber security risks.
According to Felix Linder of Recurity Labs , satellite networks can be vulnerable to Internet hacking. Some high-profile cyber security breaches involved hacking of satellite communications systems since they offer an ideal vantage point for cyber criminals.
Stuart Daughtridge, VP of Advanced Technology, Kratos Integral Systems , agreed. He cited grave cases of satellite data security breaches in the recent times which involved Landsat 7 and Terra imaging satellites, BBC satellite signals and breaches on government-controlled satellite networks. Despite these risks, the SATCOM industry is shifting to IP-based platforms due to cost and performance benefits.
An increasing number of service providers are looking toward end-to-end IP in the ground segment, but some do not have expertise on IP security. For a long time, satellite communications carriers have been relying on specialised equipment . But as more and more carriers and clients are opting for IP-based servers, workstations, recorders and modems, the industry needs to catch up in terms of IP security. Various SATCOM Internet systems have connectivity via commercial IT infrastructure used to transfer files and data, thus security should not be ignored.
Satellite IP security threats further increase as operators shift to leased commercial telecommunication lines.
Satellite service providers are not as informed about IP or cyber security issues as ground IP operators are. To underscore the susceptibility of satellite-based networks to security breach, Lindner said that satellite phone encryption can be breached in as short as 30 minutes. He referred to the the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) secret encryption algorithms used by researchers from Ruhr University Bochum (Germany). The team reverse engineered them easily due to design flaw which rendered Cipher text easily vulnerable to hacking. Lindner said that GMR-1 was found to be quite similar to GSM A5/2, but GMR-2 was a bit better.
Advanced satellite IP technologies should be able to detect abnormal patterns on network usage such as network outage, unusual bandwidth usage, presence of a new host on the network or absence of a critical host or service. Security experts also suggest that the industry should be less reliant on security by obscurity, a principle based on the use of secrecy of design or implementation to provide security. In contrast, security by design and open security allows for security protection even if the elements of secrecy have been uncovered by potential attackers. The United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does not recommends security through obscurity.