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The European Space Agency (ESA) is also facing cyber threats, as the technology it uses has become increasingly susceptible to hackers. An expert at the ESA believes it is high time for the agency to further scale up its security measures.

The current commercialization of European space brings new challenges, including in the area of cybersecurity. The ESA is therefore going to expand its security measures, Dr. Daniel Fischer, Head of Ground Segment System and Cybersecurity Engineering at ESA recently announced at a conference in Tallinn.

Aerospace more vulnerable to cyber attacks

According to him, the deployment of commercial products means that threats from other sectors are also becoming relevant in space.

Previously, space agencies used technology not available anywhere else, which at the same time made it safer from cyber attacks. However, today’s commercialization is causing companies to increasingly use standard IT solutions and applications to develop their space-related ventures. This, of course, has obvious consequences.

In addition, spacecraft are increasingly connected to other networks, such as the Internet, which increases their cyber vulnerability, Fischer said. All of these can cause significant incidents, because with spacecraft, even the slightest error or problem can cause extremely large problems.

Scaling up cybersecurity measures

Recently, Fischer spoke at a keynote in Tallinn, Estonia, where he explained what ESA is planning in the cybersecurity field. He argued that it’s time to strengthen existing measures, especially for ground-based space technology and applications.

More specifically, a strong defence-in-depth security strategy will be adopted. ESA also calls this strategy its Ground Operation System Common Core – Multi-Mission Generation (EGOS-MG) system. All components of this system will be open to the European space industry under a license from the European Union. This strategy, when properly rolled out, should provide all stakeholders within the European space ecosystem with appropriate security for ground-based components in particular.

Own dedicated C-SOC

There will also be a Cybersecurity Operations Centre (C-SOC) within ESA’s operational working environment, the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) and the European Space Security and Education Centre (ESEC). This dedicated SOC for European space will begin operations in 2024 and will focus on detecting and mitigating cyber-attacks on ESA space infrastructure environments. The European space industry will also be able to use this dedicated C-SOC.

Furthermore, EA is also still looking at the development of new technology such as AI to what extent this could potentially threaten European space. This involves close cooperation with the European space industry under the ESA General Support Technology Program (GSTP).

Also read: EU launches satellite-based Quantum Key Distribution system