COLUMBIA, Md. —
Cyberspace is the new frontier in warfare, and Airmen from the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing’s 707th Communications Squadron, Fort George G. Meade, Md., were recently given the opportunity to show why the 70th is known as America’s Cryptologic Wing.
At this year’s National Security Agency Cyber Defense Exercise, the first Space Cyber Challenge was hosted. Five 707th CS Airmen, alongside NSA personnel and NASA engineers, competed in the challenge against graduate students from the Royal Military College of Canada.
Throughout the week-long competition, warriors honed their cyber skills and tested their ability to build, secure and defend a space mission’s network from cyber-attacks.
“SCC was developed to increase awareness of space cybersecurity challenges and principles,” said Capt. JBernard Calpo, 707th CS.
During the challenge, the competitors had to focus on three separate mission objectives: system hardening, satellite operations and offensive cyber operations.
To ensure a fair competition, a space mission kit was given to both teams. The kit was developed using commercial, off-the-shelf products and had two segments, a ground segment and a space segment, Calpo said.
To represent the space segment, the Space Cyber Challenge teams developed a miniature satellite, or CubeSat, with a sensor board, and simulated satellite thrusters with light-emitting diodes, LED ring lights.
For the ground segment of the project, the CubeSat’s ground station communicated securely through an unsecure connection, or secure shell connection.
“For system hardening, each team had to secure their system prior to the start of the exercise,” Calpo said. “For satellite operations, each team completed daily tasks, such as sending commands up to their satellite and downloading sensor data. Finally, for offensive cyber operations, each team attempted to attack another team's space mission and send malicious commands.”
Calpo said exercises like SCC help train and equip 707th CS Airmen to protect real cyber assets and enhance security within cyberspace.
In today’s Air Force, collaboration across all domains, core functions, sister services, coalition and partner nations is a necessity, and strengthens the Air Force’s ability to maintain Command and Control in cyber operations, Calpo said. And, he said, the experience and collaborative efforts Airmen gain through training events like the Space Cyber Challenge will continue to enhance the multi-domain capabilities of the 70th ISRW, limiting security risks and acquiring new solutions for better sharing information across the globe.