The satellite community is different when it comes to cybersecurity and the threat environment, according to one satellite executive.

While the satellite industry has some of the same threats others in the commercial sector face, these space-based assets carry communications that are mission-critical, and because of that "some of the threat actors … are unique," said Andrew Tomaszewski, vice president of advanced programs at IDRIECT. 

"We're not only subject to the classic commercial threat actors, but there are very active nation-state actors in that are involved in satellite communications as well," he said Wednesday during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington.

Commercial satellite providers produce services and capabilities for both civilian and government agencies. These services are responsible for GPS navigation, targeting of munitions, ensuring accurate timing, situational awareness of assets and even ensuring functionality of ATM machines.

These capabilities make targeting certain satellites and their communications lines — which could include the chain from a ground control station to the satellite in orbit itself — an attractive target for various reasons.

These advanced threats are universal across the industry, Tomaszewski said, affecting any and all companies. "We know all the companies involved in satellite communications are targeted by nation-state actors."

Tomaszewski said that although industry can glean information and threat intelligence from forums such as the dark web or examining attacks levied against other companies, information is still needed from the government and law enforcement to help guide industry actions.

"It’s not just standard ‘implement this control set,’ " he said. "We have to go a little bit farther and analyze the threats that come into our companies."

This can be done by signing up to any one of a number of information-sharing resources the government has put in place to ensure both the private sector and government have exactly what they need to combat these threats.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.