Cyberattacks threaten many computer-controlled systems. Attacks on technology, on which people's lives depend, are particularly dangerous. The functioning components of many terrestrial systems are located in space. One example of a cyberthreat is the manipulation of GPS satellites to block signals from them or cause them to transmit false signals. Air and shipping traffic and many other technical systems that affect people's daily lives depend on it. Failure or malicious manipulation of satellite control systems can cause enormous economic damage or danger to human life.
In cooperation with the University of Tartu Observatory and CybExer, it is planned to create a digital twin from the ESTCube-2 satellite control system. The twin has the same functions used to control the satellite, but their implementation does not affect the operation of the ESTCube-2. On the twin, it is possible to test and develop the system's resistance to cyberattacks and to improve the original control system based on the experience gained. It can also be used to train satellite operators.
The one-and-a-half-year collaborative project is unique in the world, and the clonable cybersecurity application added to ESTCube-2 makes it even more interesting. In the longer term, the parties' joint research and development will enable the creation of new cybersecurity tools and products that can be used in satellite control systems worldwide. The cooperation also creates various new and exciting follow-up project opportunities for the Estonian space cluster.
The project marks the beginning of a long-term cooperation between the University of Tartu and CybExer Technologies in the field of cybersecurity. A memorandum of understanding was also signed to confirm this.
“The University of Tartu has led the development of Estonian space technology and cybersecurity issues. This cooperation is a good example of how we can connect these two areas and create something that no one else in the world has done at such a level yet,” said Toomas Asser, Rector of the University of Tartu. "ESTCube-2 will be the safest student satellite in the world," the rector emphasised.
With the help of the project, CybExer Technologies can expand the ways of using its own cyber range. Cyber range is a solution that enables the simulation of IT systems, which can be used to test the resistance of different systems to cyberattacks and protection against them. The cyber range is also used in the popular youth cyber competition Cyber Battle of Estonia, organised by CybExer and the University of Tartu for many years.
Andrus Kivisaar, Member of the Management Board of CybExer Technologies, said that there is a great demand in the world for the new functions of the cyber range. "We are pleased to cooperate with the University of Tartu in an area that is crucial for the future. Working with ESTCube's enthusiastic team at the legendary Tõravere Observatory adds a special aura to the project," said Kivisaar.
The project has received support from Enterprise Estonia's applied research programme, the task of which is to support companies in launching, advising on and financing knowledge-intensive development work and finding suitable cooperation partners. Projects supported by the programme are funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Union's COVID-19 pandemic response. The overall cost of the project is 560,000 euros.
This article was first published on 18 March by University of Tartu.