WASHINGTON — The White House on March 2 released a national cybersecurity strategy that points at Russian and Chinese hackers as major threats to U.S. terrestrial and space networks. 

“We face a complex threat environment, with state and non-state actors developing and executing novel campaigns to threaten our interests,” the White House said

The Biden administration is releasing an updated cybersecurity plan a year after Russia demonstrated cyber warfare capabilities during its invasion of Ukraine, including attacks against satellite networks

The new document replaces the Trump administration’s 2018 cybersecurity strategy but the White House will continue to move forward with the implementation of Space Policy Directive 5, a plan focused on the protection of space systems issued by the previous administration in September 2020. 

The Biden administration “remains committed to enhancing the security and resilience of U.S. space systems, including by implementing Space Policy Directive 5 ‘Cyber Security Principles for Space Systems.”” says the strategy. 

Space Policy Directive (SPD) 5 was billed as the first comprehensive government policy related to cybersecurity for satellites and related systems.

Experts have warned that space systems are coming under increasing attacks because of their role as critical infrastructure and providers of essential services.

DoD using commercial space systems for added resilience

Winston Beauchamp, deputy chief information officer for the Department of the Air Force, said the military over the past decade has boosted the cybersecurity of space networks by relying on a diversity of government and commercial systems. 

Speaking March 2 on a virtual forum hosted by the SmallSat Alliance, Beauchamp said one of the trends in space systems is “diversity as a resilience enabler.”

A former deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, Beauchamp said the military expects its space systems to be the targets of cyber attacks because of their critical role. In past conflicts, “we demonstrated to our adversaries exactly what we could do with high end space capabilities and how it was a huge enabler to our combat operations,” he said. 

The Air Force “looked at every single mission area and at ways to improve the resilience of each architecture whether it was missile warning, satellite communications, position, navigation and timing, you name it, pretty much everything but weather had to have a resilience plan associated with it.”

The basic approach to resilience is to rely on a diversity of systems which makes it “virtually impossible for an adversary to deny us the ability to communicate everywhere all the time,” said Beauchamp. “They may be able to deny or degrade somewhere, sometime, temporarily, but they can’t do it on a regular basis because of the fact that we’ve taken our government assets and supplemented to a great degree, with the systems that industry has put up.”

Having that added resilience “gives us the ability to operate with confidence in certain areas of the world where we perhaps could not before,” Beauchamp said. 

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...