The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is an independent federal agency responsible for managing all civil Canadian space-related activities. Additionally, it represents Canada on the global stage, engaging in partnerships with various international organizations and governments as well as industry and academic institutions.
Part of CSA’s mandate is to operate the government-owned and operated RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) that includes a fleet of three Earth observation satellites. Launched in 2019, RCM provides imagery for the purposes of maritime surveillance, disaster management and eco-system monitoring by Canadian government departments and civilian users.
The manner in which satellite imaging data is used and made available for public consumption has evolved over the past decade. While about five percent of the RCM’s expected image volume will be classified for science data handling, the remaining 95 percent will be for unclassified use. Meanwhile, operator personnel must have secure access to manage the satellite operation and its performance using the same ground system.
This process requires a multi-level secure (MLS) architecture to support registered users who order and download classified and unclassified images and related data as well as technical personnel who operate the spacecraft.
ADGA carried out a systematic analysis of RCM over a one-year period that included:
- A Statement of Sensitivity (SOS) to identify and categorize relevant assets as per their confidentiality, integrity and availability values based upon potential, and reasonably expected, injuries in the event of a compromise;
- Identification of deliberate threats, accidents and natural hazards that may negatively affect these assets, along with an analysis of the likelihood of occurrence and severity of impact;
- Assessment of current vulnerabilities, based on the evaluation of existing or proposed security measures and their adequacies; and
- Analysis of any residual risks for assets vulnerable to specific threats. In instances where an assessed residual risk met, or exceeded, the Medium level, ADGA provided recommendations to help CSA attain a target Low level.
The comprehensive analysis included:
- The RCM subsystems at the Primary Control Facility in St-Hubert and the Backup Facility in Ottawa;
- The Northern Ground Terminal (NGT), and its links;
- RCM transponders that ensure RCM image quality;
- The Multi-Mission Collision Risk Assessment Management System (CRAMS) that provides space debris collision analysis for RCM and other missions;
- The Antenna Reservation System (ARS) that conducts antenna reservations at external facilities for RCM and other missions; and
- The interfaces/entry points (both classified and unclassified) to all external systems.
ADGA distilled its analysis into a comprehensive roadmap to provide CSA with a detailed snapshot of the threats it faces in all dimensions – IT, technical, non-technical, physical and personnel-related. This includes actionable recommendations on how CSA can minimize business risk and ensure the success of the RCM mission by revisiting its security practices/policies and key business processes.
These recommendations are critical to the prevention of RCM security failures including cyber-attacks, espionage, data thefts, mission redirections, and even potential corruption and loss of services that would require a costly satellite re-launch.
CSA now has the clarity to understand what it should and must do, and the consequences of delays or inaction. CSA’s executive team can make frank and informed decisions on how best to proceed given its governance priorities, budget constraints, and its internal and external stakeholder relationships.