White House issues 'SPD-5' cybersecurity policy for space

The administration’s latest Space Policy Directive, SPD-5, details policies the government believes the country’s public and private space agencies should adopt to protect their systems from hacking threats. Some of the best practices the document recommends include that operators encrypt data they receive from their craft. They should also install physical measures to protect the control and communication systems of their vehicles, as well as work to prevent the jamming and spoofing of satellites. 

Notably, it also suggests that operators source their components from “trusted suppliers,” and identify parts that could be used maliciously by some other foreign power. It’s worth noting many of the guidelines the administration outlined on Friday are already practices both government and private space agencies have widely adopted.   

The White House said the practices the document outlines are necessary to protect US space interests, which it considers vital to the security and economic prosperity of the country. However, it stopped short of listing the specific threats US-operated satellites and spacecraft face from foreign countries. A senior official told The Verge the threats “occur with concerning regularity, such that this... set of cybersecurity principles was important.” 

At the same time, the administration doesn’t plan to require agencies like NASA to codify the practices into regulations. “We’re very much trying not to be prescriptive,” an official told Space News. “There’s a lot of motivation for companies to try to be cybersecure on their own.”

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