In late September 2023, the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published its Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Networks, otherwise known as NIST IR 8441. This blog will explore the reasons behind NIST developing the framework, outline its intentions, and summarize its key points.
What is a Hybrid Satellite Network?
To understand IR 8441, we must first understand a Hybrid Satellite Network (HSN). NIST defines an HSN as a network that:
“[Uses] independently owned and operated terrestrial and space components to realize a space system that may provide extended global services across diverse missions and connecting points. The HSN architecture typically consists of a combination of independently owned terminals, antennas, satellites, payloads, or other components that communicate across disparate networks. An HSN may interact with government systems and critical infrastructure (as defined by the Department of Homeland Security) to provide services such as satellite-based communications, position, navigation, and timing (PNT), remote sensing, weather monitoring, and imaging.”
Why did NIST develop the Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Networks?
IR 8441 is emblematic of the US government’s recognition that the HSN sector has grown increasingly fragmented in recent years. The space sector is now dominated by independent, disparate entities; this framework is an attempt to ensure all relevant stakeholders understand and are singing from the same hymn sheet on HSN cybersecurity.
The framework's primary goal is to aid HSN organizations in understanding cybersecurity attack services, incorporating security into infrastructure, and bolstering space system resilience, particularly for those that critical infrastructure organizations, the US Department of Defense (DoD), or other government missions may need to leverage.
According to NIST, the HSN Profile will help organizations:
- Identify systems, assets, data, and risks from the CSF that pertain to HSN.
- Protect HSN services by utilizing cybersecurity principles and self-assessment.
- Detect cybersecurity-related disturbances or corruption of HSN services and data.
- Respond to HSN service or data anomalies in a timely, effective, and resilient manner.
- Recover the HSN to proper working order at the conclusion of a cybersecurity incident.
It’s important to note that IR 8441 is not a regulatory document but merely a foundational set of guidelines. There are no penalties for non-compliance, and the recommendations are not mandatory.
Who is the Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Networks for?
The framework states that it is intended for those involved in managing, developing, implementing, and monitoring the HSN. Those individuals may include but are not limited to:
- Procurement officials responsible for the acquisition of HSN services
- Public and private organizations that provide HSN services
- Managers responsible for the use of HSN services
- Risk managers, cybersecurity professionals, and others with a role in cybersecurity risk management for systems that provide or interface with HSN services
- Mission and business process owners responsible for achieving operational outcomes dependent on HSN services
- Researchers and analysts who study the unique cybersecurity needs of HSN services
- Cybersecurity architects who integrate cybersecurity into the product designs for space vehicle segments and ground segments.
What are Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Network’s key recommendations?
The Framework Core is split into five essential functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. This section will summarize and explain those areas. However, if one of the titles listed above applies to you, it is recommended that you review the complete framework.
The Identify Function is vital to cybersecurity and risk management, forming the basis of the assessment. Its objectives include recognizing the organization's purpose, identifying assets and their criticality, pinpointing infrastructure for HSN functionality, and assessing current vulnerabilities and threats. Within the CSF, the Identify Function spans six categories. They are:
- Asset Management
- Business Environment
- Risk Assessment
- Risk Management
- Supply Chain Risk
The Protect Function focuses on measures to prevent assurance or functionality loss in HSN and enables cybersecurity event response and recovery planning. Risk mitigation execution falls under Response and Recovery Functions.
Protect Function objectives are to:
- Safeguard systems formatting and transmitting HSN data.
- Safeguard systems that receive and process data from other HSN organizations.
- In the event of a threat, protect users and HSN-dependent applications.
The Protect Function is divided into six further subheads:
- Identity Management, Authentication, and Access Control
- Awareness and Training
- Data Security
- Information Protection Processes and Procedures
- Protective Technology
The Detect Function helps organizations monitor for anomalies, informed by Identify and enabled by Protect. Objectives include enabling detection through monitoring, deploying detection capabilities, and handling anomalies. Organizations may use automation and tools like SIEM to detect threats and reduce false positives. For HSN organizations, it is important to ensure data compatibility and consider standards for interoperability and sharing.
The Detect Function is composed of three subheads:
- Anomalies and Events
- Security Continuous Monitoring
- Detection Processes
The Respond Function contains and responds to cybersecurity incidents, guided by the Detect Function and enabled by the Protect Function. Objectives include containing events, communicating their impact, responding to threats, and improving strategies based on lessons learned. It is made up of five subcategories, each with at least one further subcategory specifically pertaining to HSNs. They are:
- Response Planning
The Recover Function restores services post-cybersecurity incidents, with timely recovery and reliance on preceding functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, and Respond. Objectives include:
- Restore HSN services using verified recovery procedures for proper functioning.
- Communicate recovery progress to stakeholders.
- Improve recovery strategies based on lessons learned.
The Recover Function is made up of three subcategories:
- Recovery Planning
Why is the Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Hybrid Satellite Networks important?
Amidst an increasingly tumultuous geopolitical landscape, rising attack rates, and segmented HSN market, the US government recognised that adequately protecting HSN infrastructure required a more coordinated approach. With most HSN organizations now independently owned and actively competing against one another, IR 8441 is an effort to encourage those organizations to adopt a standardized approach to cybersecurity, based on a culture of knowledge sharing and coordinated efforts. It is emblematic of a wider shift in attitudes towards cybersecurity in the private sector, wherein organizations are encouraged to cease viewing cybersecurity as a competitive advantage and recognize that achieving a good level of cybersecurity industry-wide is beneficial for all those operating in the sector.
You can view the full document here.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire.