Tom Keane, Microsoft Azure Global corporate vice president, announced the tech giant's plans to join the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Credit: Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO – The Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) welcomed its newest member, Microsoft, June 23 with an announcement highlighting the tech giant’s cybersecurity expertise.

“Space cybersecurity is relatively unknown territory because we’re approaching and doing some things for the first time, fortunately through Space ISAC we have the opportunity to build a foundation for protection from a knowledge pool with deep security expertise,” Frank Backes, chair of the Space ISAC board of directors and Kratos Space Federal senior vice president, said in a statement. “Microsoft brings its longstanding history of proficiency in cybersecurity to its role as a founding member including its experience detecting and stopping attacks and eliminating persistent threats which brings clear value our membership.”

Microsoft has been expanding its role in the space sector largely through partnerships. Microsoft announced Azure Orbital in 2020 to link satellite networks with the Azure cloud. Microsoft also has revealed partnerships with Amergint Technologies, Kratos, KSAT, Kubos, SES, Thales Alenia Space, U.S. Electrodynamics and ViaSat.

“As the first hyperscale cloud service provider to join this member organization, we will share our unique global threat insights to protect critical infrastructure and strengthen cybersecurity expertise in the space community,” Tom Keane, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure Global, said in a June 23 blog. “We look forward to supporting the [Space ISAC’s] mission to facilitate collaboration across the global space industry, to enhance the community’s ability to prepare for and respond to cyber vulnerabilities, incidents and threats; disseminate timely information; and serve as the primary communications channel for the sector.”

The Space ISAC shares information on various threats to space systems and the ground networks supporting them. Much of the attention lately, though, has focused on cybersecurity.

Microsoft invests over $1 billion dollars annually on cybersecurity with a team of more than 3,500 security analysts, researchers, responders, engineers and data scientists in 77 countries.

Because of its vast cloud network serving billions of customers, Microsoft employs machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze trillions of security signals from emails, apps, network logs and connected devices, according to Microsoft Digital Defense Report released in September 2020.

“The space community is growing rapidly, and innovation is lowering the barriers of access for both public and private organizations,” Keane said in the blog. “The increase in availability and connectivity of space technology increases the surface area of cybersecurity risk and the urgency for collaboration to address the threat. Microsoft recognizes the importance of navigating these emergent cybersecurity challenges amidst rapid commercial advancements in communications infrastructure, satellite connectivity and broadband.”

Microsoft is joining the Space ISAC as a founding member alongside the Aerospace Corp., Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Booz Allen Hamilton, MITRE, SES, Lockheed Martin, Parsons Corp., Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory and Northrop Grumman.

Bill Chappell, Microsoft vice president of mission systems, plans to represent Microsoft on the Space ISAC board of directors.

Space organizations established the Space ISAC, a nonprofit organization, in 2019. The Space ISAC began meeting in 2020 with representatives from government agencies to discuss cybersecurity concerns across the national security, civil and commercial space sectors.

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...