ESA, European Defence Agency Team Up to Improve Space Cyber Security

PARIS (ESA PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) today agreed to further deepen their already close cooperation around cyber-resilience, aiming to strengthen Europe’s capacity to protect systems and networks critical for space.

Why it matters: Cyber-attacks can target individuals, companies and public institutions and civil services such as energy grids, water treatment and distribution, financial markets, autonomous vehicles and supply chains for food and medical goods like vaccines. And these all increasingly reply on satellites and space-based services.

ESA is committed to protecting its space assets and those of its partners and Member States. To that end, cyber-resilience is an on-going project, and includes activities such as ESA’s Cyber Centre of Excellence and Cyber Security Operations Centre. 

Everyday concern: Europe’s ‘space systems’ – comprising satellites and networks for telecommunication, data relay and navigation, among many others – are a central link in our intertwined 21st-Century societies, and the information and data created, managed and exchanged by ESA and Member States are of critical value to Europe’s economic and civil security.

  • Cyber-threats are constantly growing in quantity and sophistication. In 2020, the World Economic Forum ranked cyber-attacks among the top 10 global risks, causing damages to the tune of some €530 billion worldwide, while, in the EU, cyber-espionage operations put at risk up to €60 billion in economic growth and up to 289,000 jobs.
  • Cyber-attacks also directly threaten democracies through so-called ‘hybrid threats’ – like interfering with democratic decision-making processes through massive disinformation campaigns or using social media to control the political narrative and share fake news.
  • Europe’s digital sovereignty is at growing risk.

The big picture: Like the rest of the world, Europe is becoming ever-more reliant on data, information and services delivered via space systems. This means that threats and disruptions to satellites, such as from space debris or cyber-attack, are increasingly dangerous and potentially damaging.

Hence the need for ESA and the EDA to cooperate even closer to improve cyber-resilience in Europe, notably by:

  • Continuous information sharing and sharing of respective capabilities
  • Enhanced training and tailored cyber-resilience courses and exercises
  • Facilitating access by each organisation to their respective communities, expertise and infrastructure, and
  • Expanding the cooperation between the EDA and ESA to other key cyber-security actors in Europe, such as the European Commission, the External Action Service, the EU Satellite Centre, ENISA, the European Security and Defence College and the European Cybersecurity Competence Centre and Network, to name but a few.

What they’re saying: “In today’s world, space creates and relays critical data, which we need to protect. We are now facing an ever increasing dependence on space infrastructure and services, and this dependence increases the impact of these being disrupted, even from natural occurrences. This is the very reason why ESA is committed to securing its space assets as well as those of its Member States and partners from cyber interference. In doing so, we also strive to build bridges and cooperation avenues with our partners, and one such longstanding partner in cyber resilience has been EDA,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

“Space and cyber defence are intrinsically linked. Therefore, it is only natural that the European Space Agency and the European Defence Agency work closely together to strengthen their respective Member States’ cyber resilience and, subsequently, Europe’s security,” said EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý.