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NIST's Latest Release, IR 8270, Focuses on Cybersecurity Risk Management in Commercial Satellite Space

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has unveiled its latest document, NIST IR 8270, which focuses on bolstering cybersecurity practices within the commercial satellite industry. Published as a comprehensive guide, the document aims to facilitate effective cybersecurity risk management in the sector of commercial space operations.

August 15, 2023


Titled "Introduction to Cybersecurity for Commercial Satellite Operations", NIST IR 8270 addresses key areas within the realm of cybersecurity risk management. While not exhaustive, the document introduces fundamental concepts and offers reference points for further exploration of cybersecurity risk management models.

Applying the Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)

NIST IR 8270 introduces the Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) as a pivotal tool for enhancing cybersecurity practices within commercial space businesses. This involves creating an illustrative CSF that aligns security outcomes with mission goals and threats, and outlining a generalized set of cybersecurity goals, requirements, and recommended controls. It's important to note that the CSF is not regulatory in nature and pertains to commercial entities that operate space assets independent of U.S. government control.

Risk Management

NIST further encourages the commercial satellite community to utilize this document as an informative reference for managing cybersecurity risks. The guidelines emphasize the importance of integrating cybersecurity requirements harmoniously with space vehicle system demands. While the document provides example requirements, organizations are urged to tailor these to their unique needs in tandem with NIST references and applicable standard-setting organizations' materials.

For Whom

The intended recipients of these guidelines are chief information officers (CIOs), chief technology officers (CTOs), and risk officers of organizations venturing into commercial satellite operations. The document underscores how the landscape of space operations is shifting from being solely under national government authorities' purview to a dynamic commercial sector.

Substantive provisions

Recognizing the risks inherent in operating in space, the NIST document outlines strategies to safeguard satellites and data. This includes identifying vulnerabilities and integrating protective measures against various threats. The document also offers guidance on detecting, responding to, and recovering from incidents that may impact satellite operations.

Furthermore, NIST IR 8270 underscores the significance of threat intelligence and collaboration. Organizations are advised to engage with Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) and consult relevant authorities to stay updated on evolving threats.

Advancements on the Legislative Front

A bipartisan legislative bill has progressed in the U.S. Senate during May, aiming to mandate the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to provide assistance in safeguarding commercial satellite owners and operators from disruptive cyberattacks. The bill, endorsed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is currently moving forward for review by the full Senate.

As the commercial space sector gains prominence and faces increasing adversarial threats, this NIST document provides a timely resource for fortifying cybersecurity practices. With legislative efforts underway to safeguard commercial satellites, the document's recommendations and insights offer a roadmap to protect these vital assets.

Report NIST IR 8270: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2023/NIST.IR.8270.pdf

Author: Nessa, Cyber Journalist


Photo: iss058e005276 (Jan. 19, 2019) - This nighttime shot from the International Space Station taken 258 miles above the English Channel shows the lights of the northern European cities of (clockwise from top right) London, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels and other surrounding cities.

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