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Information security considerations for protecting NASA mission operations centers (MOCs)

Information security considerations for protecting NASA mission operations centers (MOCs) In NASA space flight missions, the Mission Operations Center (MOC) is often considered “the center of the (ground segment) universe,” at least by those involved with ground system operations. It is at and through the MOC that spacecraft is commanded and controlled, and science data acquired. This critical element of the ground system must be protected to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information and information systems supporting mission operations. This paper identifies and highlights key information security aspects affecting MOCs that should be taken into consideration when reviewing and/or implementing protecting measures in and around MOCs. It stresses the need for compliance with information security regulation and mandates, and the need for the reduction of ITsecurity risks that can potentially have a negative impact to the mission if not addressed. This compilation of key security aspects was derived from numerous observations, findings, and issues discovered by IT security audits the authors have conducted on NASA mission operations centers in the past few years. It is not a recipe on how to secure MOCs, but rather an insight into key areas that must be secured to strengthen the MOC, and enable mission assurance. Most concepts and recommendations in the paper can be applied to non-NASA organizations as well. Finally, the paper emphasizes the importance of integrating information security into the MOC development life cycle as configuration, risk and other management processes are tailored to support the delicate environment in which mission operations take place.

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