Securing Our Earth on Earth Day 2024: A Call to Action for Conservation

Securing Our Earth on Earth Day 2024: A Call to Action for Conservation

Sundar Balasubramanian

By Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director at Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC

Cybersecurity solutions quietly stand as guardians of our society, ensuring the seamless functioning of economies, businesses, and critical infrastructure worldwide. While commonly associated with defending against data breaches and cyber-attacks, one often overlooked aspect is their contribution to securing our planet’s sustainable future. They play a vital role in monitoring environmental changes, predicting natural disasters, and safeguarding satellite systems tracking asteroids, thus shielding us from potential catastrophes.

In this blog post, we delve into this unseen yet critical facet of cybersecurity, shedding light on its significance beyond merely protecting digital assets. As we observe Earth Day this year, we also reflect on how cybersecurity solutions have evolved and become integral to securing life on Earth.

Cyber security as The Guardian of Our Planet

Cybersecurity has come a long way from its early days of simple virus protection. Today, it encompasses a broad range of technologies and strategies designed to protect networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access and cyber threats.

India’s ranking in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has improved, with the country now ranked 7th in the 2024 index, up one spot from the previous year. This ranking is a testament to India’s efforts to address climate change and meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). India’s NDCs include a commitment to reduce the emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 45% by 2030 from the 2005 level and achieve about 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030. As our reliance on digital technology has grown, so too has the importance of cyber security in safeguarding critical infrastructure, including those vital to our societal, environmental, and overall planetary well-being.

One of the most significant areas where cyber security intersects with environmental protection is in the monitoring and management of satellite systems. Satellites play a crucial role in tracking environmental changes, predicting natural disasters, and even detecting asteroids that could pose a threat to our planet. However, these satellites are vulnerable to cyber attacks that could disrupt their functionality or manipulate their data.

A notable case study is the 2019 incident involving the European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite, which plays a crucial role in gathering data for climate research and weather forecasting. Cyber attackers attempted to gain control of the satellite’s communication systems, aiming to disrupt its data transmission and potentially compromise the accuracy of crucial environmental data. Thankfully, the attack was detected and mitigated in time, preventing any damage to the satellite’s operations and ensuring the continued reliability of its vital environmental monitoring functions.

This successful detection and mitigation of the attack on the Aeolus satellite underscores the critical importance of cyber security measures in protecting our planet, highlighting the need for vigilant and robust defenses to safeguard the data that informs our understanding of Earth’s changing climate.

India’s own space program, managed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has made significant strides in satellite technology, including the launch of military satellites like GSAT-7, GSAT-6, and GSAT-7A, which have enhanced India’s maritime security capabilities.

The country’s focus on space-based assets, particularly in the maritime domain, underscores the importance of cybersecurity in safeguarding critical infrastructure and ensuring the reliability of satellite systems that play a vital role in environmental monitoring and disaster prediction. India has also been focusing on securing its satellite communication (SATCOM) systems, which play an important role in ship-to-ship and ship-to-land GPS navigation, and tracking. The Indian Navy has been ensuring adherence to cybersecurity protocols, strict inspections, regular software upgrades, risk assessments, and establishing best practices to deal with cyberattacks.

How Cyber Security Factors into Environmental Protection

The buck doesn’t stop there when it comes to the critical role that cyber security plays in securing our planet. For instance, cyber security infrastructure could be essential in protecting satellite systems used for tracking and predicting the paths of asteroids headed toward Earth.

Another instance is the protection of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, which are crucial for monitoring and controlling industrial processes, including those in the energy sector. A cyber attack on these systems could result in environmental disasters, such as oil spills or nuclear accidents in the worst case, or, similar to the case of the wide-reaching Viasat hack, result in critical malfunctions in the operation of renewable energy infrastructure.

Indeed, we are proud of the fact that Check Point’s cyber security solutions are pivotal in protecting such advanced and essential SCADA systems from such threats, thereby safeguarding our environment from potential harm, while ensuring the steady generation of climate-friendly renewable energy sources.

Cyber Security as a Smart Solution

The emergence of smart cities, smart buildings, smart transportation, and even smart health signifies a leap towards more efficient, sustainable, and interconnected environments. These advancements integrate various services, from traffic and emergency management in urban settings to global shipping coordination and remote healthcare, through digital platforms. They rely heavily on real-time data exchange and interconnected networks to improve living standards, streamline transportation, enhance energy conservation, and offer advanced medical care remotely. However, the backbone of these systems is their cyber security measures, which ensure the reliability and safety of these critical services.

Recent cyber incidents, such as the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the SolarWinds hack, underscore the vulnerabilities that come with increased connectivity. These events demonstrate the potential chaos and severe repercussions that cyber attacks can have on national security, economic stability, and public safety. Cyber security is not merely a technical necessity but a critical infrastructure requirement that protects essential services and sensitive information across sectors including healthcare, energy, finance, and government.

A Secure and Sustainable Future is Essential

As we celebrate Earth Day, we also recognize the integral role that cyber security plays in ensuring a long and sustainable future. The development of cyber security solutions, as demonstrated by Check Point’s technologies, has been crucial in safeguarding critical infrastructure that prevents potentially large-scale environmental catastrophes, while ensuring the sustainability of our digital and physical worlds. It is a testament to the fact that in our interconnected world, securing our digital realm is inseparable from securing our Earth.

However, Check Point’s responsibility goes beyond its commitment to securing our environment and society. Check Point has set the notable goal of achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2040, and we monitor our carbon emissions while committing to improving the environmental performance of our future generation of products. In addition, Check Point also embraces the need for more environmentally- friendly products for the betterment of the planet. For instance, in our latest firewall offering of Check Point Quantum Force, the solution offered the most power-efficient design in the market, meaning they consume less power per gigabyte per second of throughput than any seen in the market, to serve our society and the environment responsibly.

Furthermore, by fostering an inclusive, diverse, and supportive workplace, the company functions as an island of stability in an ever-changing world. The full scope of our commitments is outlined in our 2022 ESG Report, and we look forward to sharing our 2023 ESG Update in the coming months.

Finally, it is important to remember that our planet is the only home that we have. At Check Point, we will continue to work diligently to shape a future where technology and sustainability go hand in hand, with the hope that we can play our part in shaping a secure and sustainable world for generations to come.