Published: 19 February 2019

Space Cyber Security Research Partnership Launched

A research partnership has been set up by global cyber security expert NCC Group and the University of Surrey to advance security research within the space industry.

NASA satellite
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Establishing a centre of excellence through the Surrey Space Centre and Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, this new partnership will utilise the University's world-leading expertise in technological innovation and focus on high-impact research to improve the understanding of current and future security challenges facing the industry.

As part of the NCSC CyberInvest scheme, NCC Group will also sponsor a PhD student to carry out their studies, focusing on the security implications of the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in satellites.

Traditionally the satellite industry has, to some extent, relied upon “security through obscurity”. However, this is no longer the case, as well-known operating systems are being deployed that could potentially be vulnerable to common security issues.

Aerospace specialists from NCC Group’s Transport Assurance practice will be providing support to the student throughout the sponsorship, as well as actively engaging on projects to broaden understanding around how this attack surface has evolved and establishing robust remote software patching processes.

With a dedicated Transport Assurance Practice, NCC Group has extensive experience in developing bespoke tools to test and improve the security of the transport industry, working with many of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers.

Dr Chris Bridges, senior lecturer at Surrey Space Centre said: “With smallsats and nanosatellites becoming commonplace and the typical launch and regulatory barriers shifting, more commercial missions are being launched in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Understanding the risks to these important assets and how they are managed is critical for ensuring the security of future infrastructure.”

Dr Mark Manulis, deputy director of Surrey Centre for Cyber Security agreed: “Space and satellite systems open up a new frontier for cyber security research, both in academia and industry. Through this partnership with NCC Group we hope to contribute to the design of new security technologies for future nanosatellites and ground control equipment.”

Andy Davis, Transport Assurance Practice Director at NCC Group, added: “From GPS navigation and global data communication, to weather forecasting and connecting international phone calls, satellites are pivotal to our everyday lives, yet many people don’t realise this.

Cyber security research in this field is urgently required and establishing this centre of excellence will help further increase knowledge about the potential threats facing emerging space assets. With the University of Surrey’s track record of bringing together business and academia, I've no doubt this partnership will be a huge success.”

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