LA-based Cyber Engineer Makes Space Systems More Secure

October 2015
Tony Magorno
Tony Magorno

Tony Magorno loves his job. As a cybersecurity engineer at MITRE's Los Angeles site, he continually hones and expands his expertise as he develops secure systems architectures and integrates them into current and future space systems. He helps his sponsor—the Space and Missile Systems Center—with space systems, model-based systems engineering, and cybersecurity.

Prior to coming to MITRE in 2011, Magorno worked on space systems and acquisitions for the military and for private contractors. But it was the cybersecurity opportunities at MITRE that really drew him to the company. "The potential to make real progress in security engineering intrigued me."

It was also an opportunity to be more proactive than reactive. "I wanted to focus on developing new concepts and making things better." MITRE's cybersecurity research is centered on threat-based defense, operational innovation, and cyber resiliency.

As the operator of seven federally funded research and development centers, MITRE's work in cybersecurity and systems engineering cuts across the entire corporation and effects all of our sponsors. We continually research and develop new concepts to find solutions for our sponsors' challenges. It's a role Magorno values.

Cyber Issues for Space Systems

Much of his work focuses on researching and developing secure DoD systems architectures and integrating them into current and future space systems such as spacecraft, satellites, and missile defense.

"My job is to define the system, structure it, tell the sponsor how it can be done, and what the good and the bad is. That's all included in the systems integration contracts report. As an operator of several FFRDCs, MITRE provides objective advice on how to improve our sponsor's operations. That could mean assessing an older system that they're integrating new technologies into or defining the processes required to build new systems."

Magorno is also part of the corporate-wide effort to expand the use of model-based systems engineering (MBSE) for our sponsors. MBSE uses system models starting in the conceptual design of systems and continuing throughout the life cycle.

"Tony has shown real initiative in developing the new MITRE MBSE material. And he's had a significant role in the development of a recent MBSE MITRE course," says Erica Lindy, his project lead for the enterprise engineering Air Force space project. "He's also been an integral part of the LA site's future by supporting the Space and Missile Systems Center in cybersecurity."

Tangible Results that Add Up to Savings

While it's hard to put an exact dollar amount on cybersecurity, Magorno is proud that MITRE's efforts have resulted in increased assurance levels and significant cost savings for his sponsor. "On one project, we helped the government avoid approximately $5 million in additional spending by reconfiguring the security maintenance proposed by a private contractor."

He continues, "In another cybersecurity project, we identified several risks to critical functions that the private contractors missed. By identifying two failure modes that had previously been overlooked, we provided our sponsors with an increased level of assurance."

The Site Environment

Magorno is also quick to point out the many advantages to working at MITRE's Los Angeles site. It's a high-octane environment with many opportunities to expand your skills and support a variety of different projects. "It's been a great experience," he says.

He also knows he can rely on MITRE staff throughout the corporation. "MITRE has such incredible resources. I use a lot of the library support: the online resources available 24/7, IEEE access, INCOSE access. You just don't get that level of support at many other companies."

Cyber Team Spans the Nation

Because MITRE has cyber engineers supporting sponsors across the country, staff periodically convenes for team building and training. In addition, last year several MITRE staff made presentations at cybersecurity conferences such as BlackHat and DEF CON.

Magorno attended both conferences and appreciated the opportunity to participate. "It had a training component to it as well as a team-building component. We had MITRE people from across the country there, and it inspired me to explore some new ways to increase the level of assurance for space systems.

"Even though many of us support different sponsors, we brainstormed new ideas and research proposals. It was a very cool experience."

—by Kay M. Upham

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