isro: Bengaluru Tech Summit | Cybersecurity for Space has a unique set of challenges: ISRO chief info security officer

Any updates that are required to be made to systems controlling Space assets are extremely complex to make, said a senior official of the Indian Space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Rajiv Chetwani, chief information security officer, ISRO, was speaking at the Bengaluru Tech Summit.

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Space assets play a pivotal role in the nation’s economy, and they are also of strategic importance. Although, there are grey zone operations internationally. “It is very difficult to identify who is initiating the attack,” he said, in a panel discussion on cybersecurity and cyberwarfare.

Suhas Gopinath, chief executive officer, Globals Inc, recalled being at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences when it became the target of a major cyberattack. “The hospital could not tag the patient’s details to their blood samples because all the data was gone,” he revealed.

“This is a dangerous scenario especially with the advent of artificial intelligence. If one needs to know dark web websites, asking ChatGPT which dark web websites should I not visit should do the trick,” he said urging people not to log into ChatGPT to do this.

Gopinath also said that around 20 flights recently were redirected to Baghdad because their flight paths were manipulated.

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Mysuru-based Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a non-profit venture, is offering a free online Cyber Crime Intervention Officer (CCIO) course, said its director Captain (retd.) Anand Naidu. The online CCIO course enables participants to volunteer as first responders to cybercrime, Naidu said.He added that trained cybersecurity professionals who can help in the golden hour after theft are available and people should seek help. “People can get their money back if they reach out for help in the golden hour window,” he said.

The Space segment has a unique set of challenges. It broadly consists of the ground segment, the link segment, and the Space assets part. The government has recently opened up the Space sector and there is a huge influx of private players, and they are showing interest in the low earth orbit (LEO) with respect to LEO satellites.

Starlink and OneWeb have launched hundreds of such satellites to provide communication using LEO. Securing these assets, not just the government setup, but also of the private players who are part of the Space sector, also must be addressed, Chetwani said.

“Issues are mainly related to economics. It comes into play because bringing cybersecurity in is expensive. LEO players need affordable operations which is one of the challenges specific to the Space sector,” he said.

Other issues include the isolation required between the Space sector and the cyber world. “The problems are because of the interconnect between the two. We also need to keep the ground segment isolated from the space sector. There are many challenges because of this: one of them being updates,” he explained.

“We cannot update systems that are controlling space assets. Some of these systems work for 15 years, some for 10 years, this is the kind of life satellites have. Once the solutions are qualified for space operations, they cannot be modified. There is a very rigorous cycle of space qualification,” revealed.

The changes are not easy and they need qualifications that are tedious and rigorous, and the qualification process has to also ensure that Space assets are not affected. “Any updates in the ground, that are not difficult for normal operations, become very complex for Space operations,” Chetwani explained.

CERT-IN has several MoUs internationally but not with all he said and this needs to be addressed, he said.

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