Researching Cyber Security of Small Satellites using Digital Twin and Cyber Range Technology

Abstract by Kristiina Omri, Aare Reintam, Ragnar Rattas from CybExer Technologies and Kristo Allaje, Melis Doğan from University of Tartu.
The project was presented in the Finnish Satellite Workshop Remote Sensing Days at Aalto University in Finland (18 – 20 January 2023).

Cyber security of space infrastructure is nowadays more critical than ever before, considered also of the political tensions. Space assets, including both ground systems and satellites, are fundamentals of the space environment that underpin European economy and military presence. The ability to impact multiple systems by compromising a single space item is an attractive target for cyber-attacks. Therefore, cyber security of space technology is crucial for European space and defence community. The project presented in this abstract tackles exactly this problem.

The proposed presentation will introduce the applied research on the topic of cyber security testing based on digital twin of a satellite and satellite operating systems (based on satellite ESTCube-2). The central goal of the research project is to improve the cyber security of the satellite and its operating system through the creation of a user-friendly and cost-effective environment where the emphasis is on automation and easily manageable cyber security testing. It aims to research and develop procedural and technical means for creating a digital twin of a satellite and its communication systems and test and improve its cyber security. The developed model ensures that creating tasks, testing, and visualization of results is easily feasible and readable. The solution supports the virtualization of equipment and linking the physical components to a controlled cyber range where testing of the design, network architecture, connections, protocols, and processes can be performed before the system is in the production networks. In addition, the solution helps to test integration capabilities of new emerging technologies and platforms.

As a result of the research project, we aim to gain the understanding of procedural and technical means that would limit the engineering efforts for new cyber range content creation that would ultimately allow users to create identical or representative environments on their own hence simplify the use of cyber range for cybersecurity testing of space assets.

The project is unique in the several following ways. Firstly, the research broadens the usability of cyber range technology through creating technical capability to automatically create twins and test their cyber security. It enables the use of this experience especially for the private sector since it simplifies the use of cyber range and makes it easier to use in product development phase. Secondly, it broadens the usability of cyber range technology to satellite development and production which is an area of growing demand. Finally, the project helps to move towards developing cyber security testing as a product feasible for small and medium-size satellite producing enterprises, which today is very scarce. Cybersecurity testing is usually labour force intensive and expensive, hence, it is being rather used in large-scale projects.

The project is conducted by CybExer Technologies and Tartu Observatory. It started in January 2022 and is planned to last till June 2023 and so we want to take the opportunity to present the progress and the preliminary results during the FSW2023.

CybExer Technologies is an Estonian cyber security company. CybExer has wide-ranging experience in providing and maintaining highly sophisticated IT platforms with a special focus on cyber capability development. The flagship service of the company is cyber range development, maintenance and conduct of exercises on the platforms. CybExer’s proprietary cyber range is one of the most powerful of its kind due to its orchestration and visualisation software. CybExer Technologies has also previously been active in research and development projects. The company has a unique experience from 2020 until 2021 of being a member of the first consortium of Estonian companies that collaborated with European Space Agency in the field of cyber security.

Tartu Observatory offers the satellite technology knowhow to the project. That is offered based on the ESTCube-2 with the opportunity to conduct the research during the development, launch and in orbit period of the satellite.