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Intelsat encrypting Five Eyes as contested operations increase

18th September 2018 - 08:47 GMT | by Helen Haxell in London


The safe transference of data is of the upmost importance to civil and military operators alike; however, the conduct of clandestine missions conducted by multinational actors in the evolving digital battlespace must be undertook securely without interference and Intelsat General Communications (IGC) is using encryption to protect these missions.

Global communications company IGC provides communications and satellite infrastructure networks to enable operators the capacity to have broadband connectivity, multi-format video broadcasting, in addition to secure SATCOM and mobility services.

Lesley Rahman, director of engineering at IGC LLC, explained to Shephard in a statement how the company’s satellites interplay with civil and military customers information sharing.

‘The Intelsat EpicNG satellites employ the most advanced digital payload in the commercial sector today, providing enhanced protections against jamming and interference, one of the most common threats to satellite communication.

Rahman added: ‘Providing even more protection, the Intelsat EpicNG spot beams and wider bandwidth segments are compatible with the [US] Air Force’s Protected Tactical Waveform, providing cost effective protection in multiple frequency bands.’

In July of this year, IGC confirmed that the company was partnering with Hughes for high throughput satellite (HTS) capabilities for rotary-wing platforms which through its adoption enables further security measures.

An IGC spokesperson stated the ‘inherent’ capabilities of its HTS spotbeams to ‘mitigate’ threats: ‘In order to jam, an attacker must be in the same beam as the satellite. Intelsat’s HTS spot beams are much smaller than traditional widebeams and are different in frequency, polarisation, or both from the adjacent beams.

‘This means that the jammer has to be within this much smaller HTS beam in order to jam. If the attack is outside that specific spot beam, the jammer cannot succeed.’

The spokesperson continued to explain that as a result of the organisation’s EpicNG satellite’s nominal beam size at 125MHz enables capacity for ‘mitigation techniques’ when it is considered in line with the Ka band which is 25MHz.

Furthermore, the company in its approach to cybersecurity adheres to US DoD security measures and more widely across government departments.

Rahman explained further: ‘By utilising layered security measures and retaining complete, end-to-end control of both the space and terrestrial components of our global network, IGC is able to detect, prevent and mitigate cyber threats.’

Half of the battle with cybersecurity is knowing that threats look to challenge and disrupt SATCOM networks utilised by multinational operators like the Five Eyes (FVEY) alliance. IGC is motivated to facing this trial head on through encryption methods.

‘In recognition of the fact that space is becoming an increasingly contested environment, and with adversaries recognising the advantage that the US military and NATO and FVEY allies gain from their satellite infrastructure, Intelsat has made the additional investment to design, equip, and operate the majority of their satellites using cryptographic systems that have been reviewed and approved by the NSA. 

‘These systems are used to secure the commands between the ground and the satellites and more recently, to secure the telemetry as well, which is the information travelling from the satellite to the ground regarding its health, safety, and monitoring,’ Rahman stated.

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