Measuring Control System Resilience to Cyber-Physical Threat in a Satellite Context


Project Leader: Dr Abdun Mahmood and Prof. Jill Slay

PhD Student: Jordan Plotnek

Participants: La Trobe University, University of South Australia, BAE Systems

Satellite infrastructure provides vital communications links for a number of critical industries, including; defence, transportation, utilities, oil and gas, emergency services, banking, environment, and others. It is therefore essential that such systems are protected from adversarial interference. Cybersecurity, in particular, has proven to be an immense challenge for satellite infrastructure, especially given the inaccessibility and long life-cycle of deployed space systems. Adding to the already complex security environment, satellite systems are evolving to include a vast array of new technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), which introduces even more potential for vulnerabilities to be exploited by cyber adversaries.

Although there are many aspects to satellite protection that can and should be considered, this project addresses the specific issue of control system resilience to cyber-physical threat. Simply put, the project goal is to develop a satellite-centric resilience framework that considers all aspects of cybersecurity (i.e. technology, policy, and people), thereby supporting the generation of metrics to measure a satellite’s physical resilience (i.e. the ability to anticipate, withstand, survive, recover, and adapt) to cyber threats (i.e. nation states, terrorists, criminal groups, hacktivists, and individual hackers). With this framework satellite manufacturers and operators will be able to adequately assess their resilience posture in order to understand their risk exposure, and thus make any necessary changes to ensure they are protected against cyber actors wanting to maliciously degrade, deny, disrupt, or destroy their satellites.