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Think The Yahoo Hack Was Bad? Imagine Hacking Space And Satellite Communications Systems

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We are more familiar with breaches like the Yahoo one and others that affected some of the big names in social media. But honestly speaking, because of the popularity of terrestrial mobile and broadband networks, we don’t pay attention to a different kind of possible breach whose consequences could be more damaging than what you may have heard of and that’s Satellite and Space communications. I came across the article on the WIRED UK website. See excerpts below;

Communications, air transport, maritime, financial and business services, as well as weather monitoring and defence systems, all face serious disruption if satellites and space infrastructure are targeted, researchers at Chatham House’s International Security Department have said.

“The last thing you want is military or cyber-attacks on satellites – even if you just switch them off they are essentially space debris which can cause more problems,” Patricia Lewis, research director at the think tank, tells WIRED.

Lewis, who will be speaking at WIRED Security, says the space infrastructure hacks they discovered are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“A large part of the critical infrastructure is sitting up there and not a lot can be done about it – it’s very old technology and it has never had any cyber protection built in,” she says. “So the big question there is how much can they be retrofitted and what happens going forward.”

The report – Space, the Final Frontier for Cybersecurity? – says cyber vulnerabilities in satellites and other communications technology “pose serious risks for ground-based critical infrastructure”.

“Possible cyber threats against space-based systems include state-to-state and military actions; well-resourced organised criminal elements seeking financial gain; terrorist groups wishing to promote their causes, even up to the catastrophic level of cascading satellite collisions; and individual hackers who want to fanfare their skills.”

Threats listed in the report include jamming and spoofing hacks on satellites to take control of them or their “mission packages”.

State-sponsored hackers can pose a realistic threat to space systems. Hacking groups working on behalf of governments have grown in prominence in recent years. State-sponsored groups have been linked to the 2014 Sony hack (although this has been questioned). And the recent hacks on the Democratic National Committee in the US have been linked to Russia.

China has already started to boost the protections on its satellites. In the country sent the “world’s first” quantum satellite into orbit. Billed as “unhackable,” the experimental satellite will be used to test quantum computing technologies and communicate across large distances.

The satellite will attempt to send secure messages between Beijing and Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang in the country’s far west, using photons to send the encryption keys necessary to decode information.

Source: Wired

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