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01 Aug 19. Inside Viasat’s Cyber Security Operations Center. Viasat’s growing CSOC offers cybersecurity to government and private sector customers in the U.S. and beyond. The modern battlespace is all about combined arms. All the various weapons of war – infantry, tanks, artillery, aircraft – must operate in tight coordination, enhancing each other’s strengths so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
For the cyber-warriors at Viasat’s Cyber Security Operations Center, or CSOC, the battlefield is digital but the tactics are the same. The people who keep our data safe from thieves and spies have to work as a team.
They have no choice, given the magnitude of the threats they face.
“The enormous diversity of Viasat’s subscriber base provides insights into a wide range of threats. Having access to a vast amount of traffic (consumers, community Wi-Fi users, enterprise, maritime, aeronautical and government customers) across our network, provides us with a rich set of data to fight various adversaries. — Ken Peterman
“Within a 24-hour period we analyze over 4.5 billion security events across our network,” said Ken Peterman, Viasat’s president of Government Systems.
The cyber-warriors in the CSOC know it’s not enough to spot a potential threat and warn a customer. To be effective, the CSOC must quickly determine which security events are benign, and which is a hacker trying to breach a network or infect a computer and act accordingly.
“The Viasat CSOC is a key component to our integrated cybersecurity model, which processes over 30 terabytes of metadata every day,” Peterman said. “Our CSOC and deep cybersecurity expertise allows us to provide a premier level of cybersecurity services that create highly relevant, actionable intelligence to maintain a vigilant and watchful defense against some of the world’s most advanced adversaries.”
The right tools with the right people using them is key.
“Trained cyber-warriors can detect a threat with ease with the right tools and data set,” said Paul Keener, director of Viasat’s CSOC. “It’s essential to have someone who knows what they are looking at. Someone who can make intelligent, informed decisions.”
That’s where the teamwork comes in. Viasat’s CSOC comprises multiple separate, but mutually supporting, capabilities:
- Cyber security analytics develop the threat intelligence modeling and machine learning that underpin the CSOC’s efforts.
- The CSOC development team builds the automated tools that monitor networks and detect cyber threats.
- Cyber infrastructure engineering handles the security architecture.
- Cyber threat intelligence identifies, contextualizes, and tracks threats in coordination with government and private organizations.
All of which feeds the CSOC’s cyber detection and response mission. Think of it as a pyramid, with cyber detection and response as the apex that protects the customer. Yet all of the other capabilities are vital, because a pyramid is only as strong as its foundation.
Viasat’s CSOC is unique among security operations centers, says Keener, a former U.S. Marine Corps cyber and communications officer. Because Viasat is an ISP as well as a satellite communications company, extraordinary amounts of traffic flow through its network on a daily basis. This creates a petabyte of metadata in a month, an immense pool of information the CSOC can analyze for early warning of threats. With all of this information one thing is clear: big data and cyber analytics are the new battlespace for cyber warfare.
This means users don’t just get access to a network, but “secure access that is continually monitored by the CSOC,” Peterman says. And being part of a commercial SATCOM provider gives Viasat’s CSOC guaranteed access to whatever bandwidth it needs.
“Most CSOCs require a terrestrial connection,” Peterman said. “We can do it by satellite.”
Insights into a variety of threats
While most Security Operations Centers exist strictly to support their organization’s internal operations, Viasat’s CSOC is also unique in that it doesn’t just protect Viasat’s SATCOM customers: It’s available to provide network security for any organization.
“The enormous diversity of Viasat’s subscriber base provides insights into a wide range of threats,” Peterman said. “Having access to a vast amount of traffic (consumers, community Wi-Fi users, enterprise, maritime, aeronautical and government customers) across our network, provides us with a rich set of data to fight various adversaries.”
“We have insight into some of the most sophisticated cyber threats in the world,” Peterman continued. “This allows us to accelerate our learning curve and truly differentiate our cybersecurity expertise and capabilities from other providers.”
As a result of its success, Viasat’s CSOC is rapidly increasing its global footprint. It now offers cybersecurity to allied government and private sector customers outside the United States and has plans for further growth over the next year.
Cyber threats are changing, says Keener. Once the issue was distributed-denial-of-service attacks that would swamp a network. Now, the problem is private and state-sponsored hackers devoting immense efforts either breaching networks to obtain data, or establishing a permanent foothold inside those networks.
Yet while technology has changed, the human element has not. To say that Keener is proud of his staff would be an understatement. He is not reticent to acknowledge that despite all the sophisticated technology, it’s people who make the difference. It is that sense of intuition, honed by years of experience that enables a human to sense a pattern where a machine does not.
“Without the people in the CSOC, there is no CSOC,” Peterman said. “We’re fortunate to have some of the best minds in the industry who are truly dedicated to protecting our customers’ information in today’s ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.”
09 Sep 19. ‘New’ space race calls for UK strategy rethink. In the face of a global ‘space race’ the UK is being urged to better define its role in the domain and confirm how many sovereign satellites are to be developed long-term.
Decision-makers should also be determining the region’s level of reliance on partners and finalising ‘how it wants to be perceived internationally,’ according to Alexandra Stickings, research fellow for space policy and security at the Royal United Services Institute.
She suggested that one way to manage collaborative-based projects would be to join new space programmes led by countries sharing the UK’s ‘strategic outlook and international values’. However, she hinted that future challenges like responding to an act of aggression or a deliberate ‘loss’ of space procured data have still to be dealt with by national authorities.
‘Increasing activities and capabilities will go some way towards establishing the UK as a military space force but to have truly global influence [and] become a valued and trusted partner to our alliances, we need to bring separate – and at times disparate activities – into a coherent and overarching strategy,’ Stickings made clear.
‘It’s only a short window before decisions need to be taken and the opportunity to recapitalise our capabilities [will be lost].’
Stickings provided a series of examples to show how complicated and diversified the space domain has become in recent years, with notable developments including the stand up of US Space Command, ‘potentially offensive’ capabilities being acquired by France, NATO ‘proposing’ to designate Space as a warfighting domain, India’s kinetic anti-satellite missile testing activities.
‘Iran has shown some ambitions and Russia is looking to restablish some of its Soviet programmes,’ she added.
National efforts aside, Stickings drew attention to commercial industry and the proliferation of ‘mega constellations’, while making reference to the European Space Agency’s near collision with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite – earlier this month. (Source: Shephard)
06 Sep 19. Collins Aerospace Launches New M-Code GPS receivers. The new U.S. M-Code GPS system will ultimately replace the current SAASM system in the provision of highly protected and encrypted GPS for military and Government users. In June this year, Collins Aerospace – a unit of United Technologies Corp. UTX, created in 2018 by bringing together UTC Aerospace Systems and Rockwell Collins – announced that it has received security accreditation for its new MPE-M, M-Code GPS receiver.
The new MPE-M is the latest in the highly successful Miniature PLGR Engine (MPE) family of GB-GRAM Type II form factor GPS receivers provided Collins Aerospace. The MPE-M is ideal for lightweight, ground-based applications such as tactical radios, SATCOM systems, blue force trackers, targeting devices, vehicle LRU’s, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
The MPE-M has the same Type-II small form factor as the current SAASM based MPE-S receiver, and is designed to be fully backwards compatible and easily integrated into platforms that utilise the MPE-S today. According to independent testing, the MPE-M is the smallest size, weight, and power (SWaP) small Type II form factor ground receiver available today, and incorporates Collins Aerospace’s recently certified Common GPS Module (CGM).
Available now, the MPE-M is authorised for export to U.S. allies through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme and is already seeing significant interest from both existing MPE-S users and future integrators. Collins Aerospace expects to release full-rate production pricing later this year in preparation for responding to international requests for proposals by early 2020 with expected deliveries to begin by the end of that year.
The company already has received multiple requests for MPE-M prototypes for lab use from the U.S. Department of Defense, in preparation for M-Code migrations before the U.S. SAASM waiver expires and the M-Code mandate takes effect.
Although Collins Aerospace is currently delivering a number of M-Code form-factors to U.S. DoD, it also remains the only remaining producer of SAASM based GPS receivers, and is projected to do so through 2035. With a huge installed base of SAASM based GPS receivers globally, Collins intends to continue to support this user community into the foreseeable future.
22 Aug 19. Link Microtek produces complex microwave feed assembly for mobile satcom antenna system. Link Microtek, the manufacturer of microwave and RF subsystems and components, has designed and fabricated a complex microwave feed assembly for use in a customer’s Ku-band mobile satellite-communications antenna system. Widely used around the world by news crews, first responders, government agencies and military units, such mobile antenna systems provide a durable and quickly deployable solution for anyone requiring reliable satellite communications facilities in remote locations. The Link Microtek assembly incorporates a feed arm, transmit and receive filters, a rotary joint and an orthomode transducer (OMT). In addition to satisfying the tight space constraints imposed by the compact nature of the antenna system, the feed assembly had to achieve strict performance criteria regarding low transmission losses and cross polarisation, as well as high isolation between transmit and receive channels.
Steve Cranstone, Link Microtek’s managing director, takes up the story: “The integrated feed assembly plays a crucial role as it interfaces with the system’s transmit amplifier, conical feed horn and receive LNB,” he said. “It was certainly no easy task to bring together the various elements of the assembly and ensure that as a whole it delivered the requisite performance and reliability.”
The feed arm is formed of WR75 waveguide to handle the Ku-band frequency ranges of 13.75 to 14.5GHz for transmit and 12 to 13GHz for receive. This is linked via a length of semi-rigid waveguide to a transmit filter, which bends round to interface to the rotary joint – the purpose of which is to accommodate one of the degrees of movement as the foldaway satcom system unfurls once in situ. The simple external appearance of the rotary joint masks the complexity of its internal design, which consists of over 40 separate precision-engineered parts, including connectors, pins, cages, spring mounts and bearings. On the other side of the rotary joint is the OMT. The function of this device is to separate the transmit and receive signals, and in conjunction with the receive filter the OMT achieves an impressive isolation figure of over 100dB.
Steve Cranstone again: “While this was an extremely complicated and challenging project, our experienced engineering team was able not only to design and build the individual elements but also to integrate them successfully to meet all the stringent specifications demanded by such satcom applications.”
05 Sep 19. Space Vehicles XVI programme a ‘small part to a larger solution.’ The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is investigating the use of low Earth orbit satellites to extend the range of the Link 16 tactical datalink, with a critical design review scheduled for October.
The Space Vehicles XVI programme is currently at the proof of concept stage, which involves integrating a payload within a commercial satellite for a low-cost technology demonstration.
‘XVI is a commercially-provided cube sat that we’ll be hosting Link 16 from space,’ 2nd Lt Shawn Hamel, the mission manager for the XVI programme, told Shephard.
‘And what we are looking to do is show how a commercially-provided bus can be integrated with the Department of Defense payload for a low cost technology demonstration. And specifically we’re looking to demonstrate the use of Link 16 from low earth orbit.’
Hamel said that one of the main goals of the project was ‘to show that there are no changes needed to the terrestrial terminals’, and that the AFRL was looking to ‘see what the uses are for Link 16 from space’.
With Link 16 migrating towards infantry use, technologies that overcome Link 16’s limitation of needing line of sight to communicate are proving attractive to the US and its allies.
The programme is currently aiming to test at low Earth orbit, as this is where radiation levels from the sun are lowest. This will help to prevent damage to some of the technology within the payload.
With the Pentagon looking at technologies that enable multi-domain operations, the Space Vehicles XVI programme is a ‘small part to a larger solution’.
However Hamel noted: ‘I really wouldn’t be able to speak to what that larger solution is. That’s a matter of our operational users and how they want to interpret the technology that we explore.’
Having awarded a 22 month contract to Viasat in February, AFRL carried out the preliminary design review in July, with critical design review coming up in October. After this AFRL will start testing on integration of the payload, before finally moving on to working on the spacecraft themselves.
In a press release in May, Viasat announced that the company’s Link 16-capable LEO satellite was designed to fit the Viasat Hybrid Adaptive Network (HAN) satellite communications (SATCOM) concept.
‘The HAN architecture will allow users to operate across commercial and government SATCOM networks and multiple orbital regimes, creating an end-to-end multi-layered solution resilient to network congestion, intentional and unintentional interference and cyber threats – even in highly-contested environments,’ the company said. (Source: Shephard)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.