CYSEC wins ESA contract to protect governmental data

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, November 10th, 2021The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a contract to CYSEC, a cybersecurity company headquartered in Switzerland, to develop end-to-end protection of governmental data exchanged over satellites, under ESA’s Strategic Programme Line Space Systems for Safety and Security (ARTES 4S). 

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Satellite communications are a critical part of security and defense-related governmental communications (Govsatcom) with many use cases ranging from surveillance, crisis management, critical infrastructure management, border control, election monitoring, etc. Govsatcom traffic is predicted to a 25-fold increase by 2040 with civilian applications representing most of the usage (~80%). Consequently, solutions must be found to accommodate that traffic increase.   

While using commercial services would allow governmental users to access much larger bandwidth, more competitive prices and service availability, data security remains the number one obstacle. Indeed, research from 2019 by the University of Oxford and armasuisse showed that using $300 of widely available equipment can open the door to eavesdropping of sensitive information broadcasted by communication satellites such as personal information (names, addresses) but also credentials of critical infrastructure like power plants and SCADA systems. 

Many satellite Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not offer over-the-air encryption in their satellite networks because terrestrial techniques like VPN significantly impact the performances of the link, typically latency. 

CYSEC has been contracted by ESA to improve the cryptographic key exchange protocol of ARCA trusted OS to be compatible with commercial satcom links to be implemented on its ARCA trusted execution environments to ensure end-to-end security. The solution developed by CYSEC will allow govsatcom users to procure comsatcom services while benefiting from the highest level of security without impacting the performances. The activity will be fully led and performed by CYSEC with the technical support of the Cyber Defense Campus of armasuisse.  

This ESA contract further demonstrates that space infrastructures play a key role in data processing and transmission, and that security in the space industry is still at its infancy. CYSEC is positioned as the European leader in the protection of sensitive data, and thanks to its expertise and major partnerships, the ARCA trusted OS is now ready to protect data in space. The topic of cybersecurity for space applications will be at the heart of the second edition of “CYSAT”, the only European event bringing together experts from both the space and security fields. Co-organized by CYSEC, the event will be hosted in Paris in April 2022. 

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, commented: “Cybersecurity is a very important topic at ESA, not only for our own missions but also regarding all the services using satellite communications. The need to exchange governmental data over satellites is growing and the activity led by CYSEC will demonstrate that it is possible to combine end-to-end security with all the advantages of a commercial link.” 

Mathieu Bailly, heading the space activities at CYSEC: “It is an honor to be awarded a contract from the European Space Agency as data security is the challenge of our century and governmental data are certainly among the most sensitive. Our goal is to implement ARCA, the CYSEC data security technology, on both sides of a commercial satellite link to provide end-to-end protection. We will be also leveraging the research done by the Cyber Defense Campus of armasuisse to minimize the impact on performances. This project is a perfect example of Swiss innovation!” 

About the European Space Agency  

The European Space Agency is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organization with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.  In 2019, ESA Member States decided to focus their efforts in the domain of safety and security by the creation of a Strategic Programme Line named “Space Systems for Safety and Security” (4S) under ESA Telecommunication Programme ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems). The deployment of advanced satellite systems and their safe circulation in space are crucial for resilient and secure connectivity on Earth. ESA’s ARTES 4S combines the two to work on safe, secure, sustainable, and scalable space systems, and their seamless integration in public and private terrestrial networks. ESA’s ARTES 4S launches, conducts and co-finances feasibility studies, pilots, and projects, to test and demonstrate routine and crisis management systems for safety and security that is “made in Europe”.   

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CYSEC SA is a data security company headquartered at the EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne, Switzerland, whose mission is to shorten the time-to-market of innovative services by facilitating their integration into a trusted IT environment. In order to achieve its mission, CYSEC developed “ARCA”, a confidential computing platform protecting software applications manipulating sensitive data. CYSEC focuses on the provision of its cybersecurity solutions in four vertical sectors, namely financial services, IoT, space and telecoms.  

CYSEC contact:

Mathieu Bailly


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