Monday 07 July 2014 – As the world grows ever more dependent on satellite technology, space operators are beginning to face up to an increasing threat from cyber attacks, according to Denis Bensoussan, Head of Space at Beazley. (source: Lloyd’s of London)
Is the threat of jamming and hacking satellite signals a big risk?
In comparison to other threats to satellite operations – such as technical failure or space-environment induced failures – it is still considered to be a fairly remote possibility. However, the occurrence and impact of cyber threats to satellites largely goes unreported as incidents, for obvious reasons, tend to be either unmonitored and/or are downplayed.
What are the more common motives for a cyber attack on a satellite?
The motives tend to be similar to other cyber crimes – greed, competitive or economic gains, and political and/or strategic interests. As cyber attacks against satellites can carry higher catastrophic potential, the perpetrators of the attacks often view satellite hacking as ‘trophy’ attacks. Also, access to satellite cyber-attack enablers – such as hacking or jamming hardware and software – is becoming more accessible and affordable.
What do you consider to be the implications for satellite operators?
The exponential growth in satellite applications is creating a systemic risk. As a large, and increasing, number of globally interconnected services on the ground come to rely more extensively on satellite communications, certain signal disruptions or interruption to these services could have catastrophic consequences.
Do you see the risk increasing?
The frequency and severity of cyber hacking risk is growing, along with the industry’s understanding of the risk. In addition, companies’ reluctance to go public about hacking incidents is starting to crumble, as the financial impact of these attacks on affected operators grows.
Do you think satellite operators are aware of the risks of hacking and jamming?
This issue is increasingly attracting more consideration, and I am currently involved in industry-wide discussions ranging from risk identification to risk mapping and management. People in the industry are beginning to realise that even though satellites are state of the art technology located in outer space, at their core they are integrated electronics controlled from the ground, and as such they are as vulnerable to cyber and physical attacks as any other electronic device.
How is the satellite sector dealing with the threat?
Risk management solutions are being devised and established, with both active and passive defence mechanisms being put in place. These solutions include risk transfer to insurers, along with improved satellite network resilience and robustness.
What do you consider to be the implications of this emerging risk for insurers?
This risk creates both a challenge and an opportunity for insurers. The challenge is that insurers have to contend with a new and potentially catastrophic class of risk, with limited historical loss data on the nature and severity of the threat. To some extent therefore it is a jump into an unknown world where criminal, business and political/strategic interests could be at play.
However, it also creates an opportunity as new risk transfer solutions are required to address gaps in existing covers. A single market-wide solution is unlikely to be realistic or sustainable due to the multiplicity and variety of exposures. Specialist insurers are better equipped to deal with these exposures due to their industry knowledge and experience in dealing with risks of a similar nature, and providing tailored cover.
Is the space sector growing?
The industry is growing rapidly and I believe is likely to continue to do so with the advent of increasingly sophisticated, lightweight and cost effective satellite technology. The growth of the sector offers significant opportunities for space insurers, but this is a very volatile, tricky and complex business to underwrite.
What do you think makes Lloyd’s an attractive market in which to develop your space business?
Space insurance is a very niche market but Lloyd’s has an exceptional level of experience and expertise, which is why it continues to be a world leader in space insurance. Having recently joined Beazley, I am excited at the prospect of building a successful space business. There are profitable opportunities in the market for an underwriting strategy based on cautious and progressive growth driven by a selective risk approach and a strong commercial focus.