Foreign Intelligence Entities Target US Space Industry, Joint Bulletin Warns
Intelligence Actors Employ 'Diverse Tactics'
In a collaborative effort, the FBI, the NCSC (National Counterintelligence and Security Center), and the AFOSI (Air Force Office of Special Investigations) have issued a joint bulletin cautioning that foreign intelligence entities, particularly from China and Russia, are employing diverse methods to infiltrate the U.S. space industry.
The bulletin outlines a range of tactics these entities are employing to gain access to sensitive information within the U.S. space sector. These tactics encompass cyberattacks, strategic investment, joint ventures, acquisitions, facility visits, conference attendance, and even the recruitment of employees.
The advisory underscores the urgency for U.S. space companies to maintain heightened vigilance and promptly report any suspicious activities to the FBI or AFOSI. Additionally, the bulletin recommends the establishment of measures such as tracking "peculiar incidents" and instituting "insider threat" programs for scrutinizing individuals in sensitive roles.
Chinese and Russian foreign intelligence activities targeting U.S. space know-how have been a long-standing concern. U.S. authorities have repeatedly accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating various institutions, including NASA's Goddard Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as multiple aerospace, space, and satellite technology companies.
Notably, a Chinese national named Tao Li was sentenced to 40 months in prison in 2019 for conspiring to illegally export military- and space-grade technology to China, including radiation-hardened power amplifiers and circuits.
The U.S. has also sounded the alarm that China aims to rival or surpass it as a space leader by 2045, intensifying the competition for supremacy in space activities.
Even major satellite corporations linked to government operations haven't escaped targeting. SpaceX's Starlink, for instance, faced jamming attacks while attempting to provide service to Ukraine.
This month, the U.S. Space Force unveiled a new unit named the 75th ISRS (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Squadron). Part of the broader Space Delta 7 unit, its primary role is to monitor adversaries in space and on the ground, assessing the threats they pose to U.S satellites.
According to the Space Force's statement, the newly launched unit is tasked with locating and tracking potential targets while analyzing their capabilities. The unit is also responsible for "target engagement," a term that potentially encompasses activities aimed at disrupting or destroying adversary satellites.