Intelligence Agencies Warn US Space Companies About Foreign Spies

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WASHINGTON – Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies are targeting American private space companies, attempting to steal critical technologies and preparing cyber attacks aimed at degrading US satellite capabilities during a conflict or emergency, according to a new warning by US intelligence agencies.

The National Counter-intelligence and Security Centre, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Air Force issued a new advisory to American companies on Friday. The broad warning to industry said foreign intelligence services could be targeting space firms, their employees and the contractors that serve those companies.

Space companies’ data and intellectual property could be at risk from attempts to break into computer networks, moles placed inside companies and foreign infiltration of the supply chain, officials said.

“Foreign intelligence entities recognise the importance of the commercial space industry to the US economy and national security, including the growing dependence of critical infrastructure on space-based assets,” the counter-intelligence centre warning said.

“They see US space-related innovation and assets as potential threats, as well as valuable opportunities to acquire vital technologies and expertise.”

While the United States still builds and launches multimillion-dollar reconnaissance and communications satellites, much of American innovation in space is being done by commercial companies, including those that conduct launches and others that build and field satellites.

Intelligence agencies are increasingly dependent on the private-sector space industry, and US officials are worried about the interest Chinese and Russian spy services have shown in those companies, based on recent FBI investigations and intelligence collection on foreign intelligence plans.

US officials believe innovations by SpaceX, Blue Origin and other private companies have given the US a huge advantage in space, one that is envied by foreign adversaries.

Security measures vary greatly from company to company, and some US officials believe the space industry needs to tighten protections against attempts by Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies to infiltrate them.

The warning issued on Friday advises companies to track anomalous incidents on their computer networks to look for potential breaches, develop protocols to identify potential foreign agents inside the business, conduct due diligence on potential investors and prioritise the protection of the most important intellectual properties. 

Source: Straits Times