Charles "Chuck" Beames is the former president of Vulcan Aerospace and former Defense Department principal director for space and intelligence systems. Credit: SpaceNews/Kate Patterson.

SAN FRANCISCO – SmallSat Alliance Chairman Charles Beames is taking the helm of cybersecurity firm SpiderOak as chairman of the board.

After meeting SpiderOak executives through the SmallSat Alliance, Beames became intrigued by the firm’s zero-trust software.

“By far and away, the biggest threat to our satellites is cyberattack,” said Beames, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Defense Department principal director for space and intelligence systems. “A lot of companies are trying to attack this problem.”

SpiderOak’s approach involves software for commercial, military and civil government customers that encrypts data throughout private blockchain networks and creates cryptographic keys that give various parties access only to the datasets they need to perform their work.

“I think that’s the answer to the cybersecurity challenge,” Beames said.

Cybersecurity is a growing problem. Government satellites have long endured attacks from individuals and state-sponsored organizations around the world. With increasing U.S. government reliance on commercial satellite constellations, companies are finding themselves in hackers’ crosshairs as well.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Christopher Scolese, National Reconnaissance Office director, warned satellite operators of possible Russian attacks to disrupt communications and GPS services. Viasat later reported a suspected cyberattack caused some network outages in Ukraine. HawkEye 360 also issued a report on increased GPS interference in recent months.

“The biggest vulnerability for GPS is spoofing,” Beames said. “This technology that SpiderOak has will be able to help solve that problem.”

Chicago-based SpiderOak has raised its profile in the last year. The company won two U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research contracts in 2021 for OrbitSecure, an off-the-shelf product to enhance satellite and constellation cybersecurity.

While working with SpiderOak, Beames will remain York Space Systems executive chairman.

“There’s a natural synergy between York, which manufactures and operates satellites for customers, and SpiderOak, which provides the foundational layer of software,” Beames said.

SpiderOak CEO Dave Pearah said in a statement that the company is “very fortunate to have an experienced board chairman from the space industry, both military and commercial, with a renowned record of leading companies to great commercial success.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...