WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Cornyn (R-TX) that would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help protect commercial satellite owners and operators from disruptive cyber-attacks has advanced in the Senate. Commercial satellites provide data and information used for navigation, agriculture, technology development, scientific research, and more. Critical infrastructure systems involved in operating networks that control pipelines, water, and electric utilities are also heavily reliant on commercial satellites. The senators’ legislation would help ensure these systems are secure from cyber-attacks that could significantly impact services that are essential to our national and economic security. The bill was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“Cybercriminals will stop at nothing to disrupt American lives and livelihoods, and an attack on commercial satellites could have devastating implications. That’s why we must ensure companies that operate commercial satellites have the proper resources to prevent disruptive cyber-attacks,” said Senator Peters. “My bipartisan bill will help ensure that commercial satellite owners and operators have the necessary tools and resources to protect their networks.”
“Satellite networks play an important role in our national security, and it’s imperative they’re protected from cyber threats and bad actors,” said Senator Cornyn. “This bill would equip satellite owners and operators with the tools to secure their systems against disruption, and I urge the Senate to pass it soon.”
Experts have shown increasing concern that commercial satellite hacks could have dire economic and security consequences. The Department of Defense has also raised concerns about this threat and recently sponsored a competition for white hat hackers to attempt breaching an active satellite. Last year, it was reported that the Russian government was behind a cyber-attack on an American-based satellite company, which provides broadband services to Europe, in order to disrupt Ukrainian military communications at start of the invasion. As commercial satellites become more pervasive, hackers could shut satellites down, denying access to their service, or jam signals to disrupt electric grids, water networks, transportation systems, and other critical infrastructure. The senators’ legislation will ensure the United States is prepared to address these threats as malicious hackers increasingly target commercial satellite systems.
The Satellite Cybersecurity Act will require CISA to consolidate voluntary satellite cybersecurity recommendations – including guidance specifically for small businesses – to help companies understand how to best secure their systems. Additionally, the bill requires CISA to develop a publicly available, online resource to ensure companies can easily access satellite-specific cybersecurity resources and recommendations to secure their networks. The legislation will also require the Government Accountability Office to perform a study on how the federal government supports commercial satellite industry cybersecurity. It will ensure a better understanding of how network vulnerabilities in commercial satellites could impact critical infrastructure. Finally, the bill also requires the National Cyber Director and the National Space Council to develop a strategy to increase coordination across the federal government to address cybersecurity threats to these systems.