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Cyber-attacks: Satellites and spacecraft

Satellites and spacecraft: Experts map new cyber attacks!

The global economy - and especially the most technologically advanced countries like the United States - is increasingly dependent on space-based capabilities such as GPS and satellite communications.

"There is no function or activity that takes place anywhere at any level and does not depend somewhat on space capabilities," said Robert Mazzolin, a retired general from the Canada. The possibilities offered by satellites are enormous. And as we have told you in the past, both spaceships and satellites can be violated.

spacecraft satellites

Roehrig and Mazzolin spoke in a virtual chat moderated on Thursday by SIGNAL magazine chief Bob Ackerman. The discussion was part of the AFCEA Europe workshop entitled "Cybersecurity in and for Space Operations". The event brought together military and politicians from United States and NATO allies, and a number of academics and experts, to map the likelihood of cyber-attacks on spacecraft and satellites.

The speaker stressed that satellites are no exception to the rule that all technology is vulnerable to hackers. Last year, the security researchers have identified a number of vulnerabilities in a software package called VxWorks. Defects enabled the attacker to remotely gain complete control systemic. Of the two billion devices on which the software was installed, most were satellite modems.

These devices, which receive satellite transmissions and communications, are part of the so-called terrestrial component - ground control stations, networks communications and the launch infrastructure on which the satellites are based. "Earth has traditionally been considered the most vulnerable part of the satellite ecosystem to cyberattacks," said Sarah Brown, a senior fellow at the Center for Government Security. ΝΑΤΟ, part of the NATO Communications and Infrastructure Organization.

Other parts of the ecosystem were considered more difficult to hack. The spacecraft itself tended to run on "Unique hardware and software", which only people who had created or "run" satellites knew how to use, he continued.

But all that has changed in recent years. Satellites use not only mass-produced components, but also basic software products - programs that hackers are familiar with as they are in the technological infrastructure of all companies around the world.

In the coming years, satellites launched into space will increase dramatically. In addition, Roehrig argued that the explosion in the number of different "players" in space - States and Companies that are new to the space game - it carries new dangers.

"Many non-EU countries with relatively little space experience have launched nano-satellites, mainly for civilian programs," he said. "In some cases, this lack of experience raises some doubts about the resilience (of their infrastructure) to attacks in general and cyber attacks in particular. "

Another trend that has increased cyber threats to the space sector, according to Gordon Davis, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Investment, is the growing interdependence of space and space. cyberspace. Satellites need a channel communication to reach users on the ground. In turn, terrestrial IP networks often rely on satellites to ensure connectivity in very isolated, remote or inaccessible areas.

"NATO recognizes that the effective use of space-based capabilities depends on secure access to, protection and use of cyberspace," Davis said.

"We need to understand, identify and defend or mitigate mutual weaknesses created by this ongoing integration of space and cyberspace capabilities… and business, ”he concluded.

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