Cybersecurity News that Matters

Cybersecurity News that Matters

Space systems could be targets for cyberattacks, expert says

Um Jung-sik, professor in the Department of Military Strategy Studies at the Republic of Korea Air Force Academy, delivers a speech at the National Strategy for Space Cyber Security event on Wednesday. Source: The Korea Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS)

by Minkyung Shin

May. 09, 2024
10:42 PM GMT+9

Updated May 10, 2024 1:14PM GMT+9

On Wednesday, a space security expert issued a warning that space systems including launch facilities could become prime targets for attackers seeking to conduct malicious activities against their systems.

Um Jung-sik, a professor in the Department of Military Strategy Studies at the Republic of Korea Air Force Academy, discussed cybersecurity threats to space centers during a presentation at the National Strategy for Space Cyber Security in Seoul. He highlighted that attackers could target space center operations at any stage, from preparation through to completion.

Um emphasized that hackers could potentially target launch vehicle fuel systems. He explained that substantial quantities of water are used to propel launch vehicles into space, and any tampering with the fuel supply could jeopardize both the launch pad and the vehicle itself. To illustrate that critical infrastructure like water systems have been compromised before, Um referenced the 2021 Colonial Pipeline attack in the United States, where the largest pipeline system in the country was crippled by a ransomware attack affecting 5,500 miles of pipeline.

The expert also addressed risks associated with the launch process. He noted that if crucial data were miscommunicated or maliciously manipulated during the launch, it could lead to the launch being aborted. Um referenced a particular incident at NASA’s Virginia-based facility in 2022, where a fire alarm in the control center led to the cancellation and delay of a space vehicle launch. He argued that a similar disruption could occur if cyber attackers targeted launch facilities, potentially leading to the cancellation of launch operations.

Um noted that while there have been no official reports of cyber threats specifically targeting space centers, he emphasized the importance of adopting a proactive approach to security as space development capabilities continue to advance. He provided statistics to highlight the growth in this sector: out of 233 launch vehicles launched last year, 212 successfully reached orbit. This represents an increase from the previous year, 2022, during which there were 47 fewer launches and 32 fewer successful orbital placements.

Um highlighted the critical need for heightened awareness of cybersecurity in space, along with training to detect cyberattacks and increased investment in security measures within space centers. He described space centers as vital military, economic, and diplomatic hubs that remain susceptible to cyber threats. “We must address this challenge collaboratively,” the expert emphasized, underscoring the importance of a united effort to fortify these crucial facilities against potential cyberattacks.


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  • Minkyung Shin

    Minkyung Shin serves as a reporting intern for The Readable, where she has channeled her passion for cybersecurity news. Her journey began at Dankook University in Korea, where she pursued studies in...

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