AFRL senior engineer Joseph ‘Dan’ Trujillo, the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Space Cyber Resiliency lead and organizer of the New Mexico Cyber and Space Symposium in Albuquerque, holds a CubeSat miniature of a satellite. The CubeSat contains all the components of a satellite and allows AFRL to study vulnerabilities in a space vehicle to develop solutions for protection against cyberattack. Courtesy/Tyrell Etsitty, USAF
ALBUQUERQUE — The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in partnership with Deloitte and Central New Mexico Community College held the New Mexico Cyber and Space Symposium in Albuquerque, Oct. 12-14, with more than 150 attendees from across the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, industry, commercial and private businesses and academia.
“We wanted to build on the success of the Space Vehicles Directorate’s inaugural Space Cyber Summit held in 2021,” Joseph “Dan” Trujillo said, the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Space Cyber Resiliency lead and technical lead for the symposium. “Unlike last year’s event, which only included DOD and government entities, this year we invited the New Mexico space and cyber communities.”
To tap into their expertise, Trujillo and his team arranged an unclassified day for the local experts in the space community, academia and business, explained Brian Engberg, who leads the AFRL Space Technology branch.
“These groups have a vision for growing a local economy of cyber expertise that we, the AFRL research and development community, can draw upon,” Engberg said. “Placing an unclassified day on the agenda was an excellent move on Dan’s part. It enabled us to foster a productive exchange among New Mexico communities to look for collaboration touchpoints that grow local industry, while supporting the U.S. Space Force’s future technology needs.”
The symposium’s theme was the “Internet of Things in Space.” Over the course of three days, leading experts in cybersecurity and space professionals made presentations and met in panel discussions to examine insights and discuss cutting-edge cyber and space capabilities and challenges.
“This symposium was key in helping AFRL and its partners to form a holistic approach in designing cyber protections,” Engberg said. “Cybersecurity in space is not just about encryption solutions; it’s about promoting layered defenses of protection such as “zero trust” and principle of least privilege in building space vehicles and their subsystems. In addition, we discussed the need to develop acquisition strategies to make space systems resilient against cyberattacks at design.”
Trujillo explained one of the primary challenges concerning space domain cybersecurity is helping the public understand the importance of our space assets to the U.S. and across the world.
“These assets are critical in areas such as satellite communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and nuclear launch detection, and they serve to enable and enhance varied missions of all U.S. military services, the Intelligence Community, as well as civil and commercial entities,” he said.
A unique feature of the symposium was a cyber Capture the Flag, or CTF, competition engaging students in grades eight through 12 on day two and college teams on day three, explained Sara Telano, acting chief of the AFRL Technology Outreach branch.
“The CTF offered the students great networking opportunities with experts from the space community, academia and cybersecurity. It also gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise in attacking or defending computer resources,” Telano said. “AFRL uses events such as this to help grow the nation’s future science, technology, engineering and math-oriented workforce.”
Trujillo said AFRL is planning a third space cyber summit in 2023 based on the excellent feedback received from attendees.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.