The recent wannacry and patya attacks have increase attention to cyber-attacks. Both attacks appear to be politically motivated and hence raises question about the future of warfare. This is of particular interest for space settlements. There are two reasons why space settlements will be particularly vulnerable to cyber-warfare.
First of all, space settlements will be highly computerized and hence life could be severely disrupted if a cyber-attack would be carried out against a space settlement. One has only to consider the recent disruption of the UK NHS to get an idea.
A second reason is that classic warfare tactics and strategy would be useless in outer space. For instance, due to distances in space a projectile could be detected and deflected long before the target is hit. Also free space habitats could relatively quickly be moved out of the line of attack.
A possible scenario of a cyber-war between space settlements is the following. Let suppose that space settlements A and B have a conflict with each other. Now settlement A could infect settlement B with ransomware, which will lock up critical computer system in B. A will only unlock B’s computer systems if B will make certain concessions to A.
There are several methods for A to carry out the attack on B. One method is to send an agent to B with a usb-drive which contains the necessary malware. Once within B this agent needs to get access to a suitable computer in order to carry out the attack. Many other methods can be imagined.
One should not be mistaken that cyber-war would be any more benign than traditional warfare. It is not. The economic damage of a cyber-attack could be huge and even human lives could be endangered in such an attack – for instance if critical life support systems are hit.
Therefore space settlements should seriously consider the formation of a cyber defense force. This agency should have two primary tasks: first, the prevention and mitigation of cyber-atacks, and secondly, to carry out counter-attacks against cyber-criminals.