From communication, navigation and Earth observation satellites to scientific research and exploration, the space industry is coming to play a crucial role in the daily lives of individuals, businesses and governments.
But new security issues are emerging at the same time. Today's space systems must be built to withstand cyberattacks, which could disrupt these essential services and are becoming more and more complex to counter.
Thales is a key player in the space and satellite industry, and also has world-class expertise in cybersecurity, with 3,500 cyber experts working for both civil and military customers. As a result, the Group naturally has a pivotal role to play in meeting the cybersecurity challenges in the steadily expanding space sector.
Increasingly sophisticated threats
Malicious cyber activity is constantly evolving, and cyberattackers are becoming ever more imaginative. From compromising the software in ground systems and stealing sensitive data, to jamming satellite signals, hacking in-orbit satellites and using spy satellites, their techniques are becoming more and more innovative and can have significant consequences for civil and military users:
- Disruption to internet services and loss of connectivity can disable remotely controlled systems (a wind farm was shut down in a recent attack).
- Loss of positioning signals can disrupt air transport, road traffic and shipping, but can also affect the synchronisation signal needed for banking transactions and other operations relying on very low-latency networks.
- Interference with satellite imagery services can compromise military intelligence and invalidate scientific studies by altering their source data.
New technologies create new forms of cyber threat. Within about a decade, for example, quantum computing will take processing power to new level and could defeat today's security systems in record time. So it’s important to act today to develop the post-quantum encryption algorithms that can thwart tomorrow's cyberthreats.
Specialised skills and technological excellence
Thales occupies a unique position at the intersection of space and cybersecurity. The Group continues to set new standards of excellence in space system engineering and system architectures, and its cybersecurity solutions encompass everything from training and prevention to cyberattack detection, response and remediation.
The Group provides a comprehensive range of services spanning secure system architectures, data encryption, intrusion detection sensors and Cybersecurity Operations Centres, as well as a Cyber Threat Intelligence service to better understand the threats to space-based systems. Thales also develops customised instruction, training and simulation tools and services to help customers expand their knowledge and hone their cybersecurity skills.
By combining all this talent and resources, Thales is helping to protect space and satellite systems at national, European and international level.
In the event of a successful cyberattack, Thales's rapid response teams help ensure a swift return to normal operations, for example by remotely reconfiguring satellites and remediating compromised workstations on the ground.
Developing cybersecurity for tomorrow's space industry
The space sector and cybersecurity are both evolving rapidly, with disruptive technologies such as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations, reconfigurable satellites, critical services security, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and post-quantum cryptography.
Thales always endeavours to anticipate tomorrow's challenges today, and is constantly looking for new talent to help defend the space industry from cyberthreats as it becomes ever more crucial to our daily lives, said Lionel Salmon, Spatial and Information systems director, CyberDefence Solutions.
In 2022, Thales is recruiting 11,000 people worldwide, including 1,000 cybersecurity engineers, to help to overcome the technological challenges to the development of our societies in the field of cybersecurity.