Together with the United States Air Force Research Lab, the US Space Force (USSF) has employed a Silicon Valley-based blockchain firm known as Xage Security to develop its data protection strategy.
Duncan Greatwood, chief executive of Xage, told Space News that its work with Space Force essentially comes down to one question: “how do you make lots of different satellites work together successfully and securely at the same time?”
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‘Blockchain’ may just be the answer. Xage will use Security Fabric, a collection of proprietary blockchain-based software programs that have been designed to communicate with each other. Security Fabric uses blockchain to verify access to individual nodes in a network and to ensure that data provided by a network is trustworthy.
Xage’s Security Fabric will be specifically used to address the challenges associated with securely connecting military and civilian satellites with ground stations in a tamper-proof fashion.
“Each element in the space network has to be able to make security decisions.”
In addition to the Space Force contract, Xage has previously worked on developing blockchain-based security solutions for oil and gas companies. Just as satellites need to “work together successfully and securely at the same time,” Xage has built infrastructure that enables oil pads to operate independently and as part of a group.
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“The ultimate goal here is to be able to bring this level of protection to space because you will get improvements in operational capabilities and also pretty significant cyber-risk reduction once no single point can be hacked to gain access the network,” Greatwood added.
Indeed, like oil pads, part of the challenge associated with satellite networks is that they continually change as satellites move in and out of view of ground stations. At the same time, nodes on the ground need to continuously determine whether data and imagery downlinked to a particular ground station are authentic or whether the data and imagery were modified, he added.
Therefore, “each element in the space network has to be able to make security decisions,” Greatwood explained.
In order to execute this successfully, a number of considerations need to be taken into account: “can I let that application access that particular data? Can I let that other satellite communicate with me or is it potentially a rogue satellite?”
Xage’s work with Space Force comes as the result of a $743,000 phase-two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from AFWERX, the branch of the US Air Force responsible for fostering innovation. The contract was awarded in June. Xage originally began working with AFWERX in late 2019 under a phase-one SBIR contract worth roughly $50,000.
This is not the first time that a US government entity has contracted a blockchain firm for cybersecurity needs. For example, CoinTelegraph reported that the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a contract to Indiana-based blockchain firm Simba Chain to provide security for sensitive research and development data in March of this year. Additionally, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has also been involved in blockchain since 2019.
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