Reps. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., and Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., on April 28 introduced companion legislation to a Senate bill offered earlier this year that would task Federal agencies with helping the commercial satellite sector improve the security of their networks.

The Satellite Cybersecurity Act offered by the House members would order two major actions to help the industry assess and improve its security.

The first would give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) six months to establish a public-facing clearinghouse of resources for commercial satellite system cybersecurity resources, including materials directed at satellite system developers and small businesses.

The second would give the Government Accountability Office (GAO) two years to develop a report to Congress that covers the effectiveness of Federal government efforts to improve the cybersecurity of commercial satellite systems, resources made available by the government in connection with those efforts, and the extent to which commercial satellite systems are relied upon by U.S. critical infrastructure operators.

The House bill is a companion to legislation offered in the Senate earlier this year by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.  The Senate bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in late March.

Reps. Malinowski and Garbarino said their bill would help protect satellite systems from cyberattacks, and pointed to a destructive assault by Russia against one such service provider at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Every day, foreign adversaries and international cybercriminals attempt thousands of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure in the U.S. and around the world,” the House members’ office said.

“On the first day Russia began its war of aggression in Ukraine, the Russian military conducted a successful cyberattack against a commercial satellite company, disrupting communication and internet services for the Ukrainian government, military, and tens of thousands of citizens,” they said. “The hack also temporarily shut down thousands of wind turbines across Europe – systems reliant on internet modems serviced by the same private sector satellite company.”

“We depend on satellites for everything from driving to work to defending our country, yet our space systems are vulnerable to cyberattack, and the commercial satellite industry has been asking for help to protect Americans against this threat,” Rep. Malinowski said.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.