Last month, SpaceX became the operator of the world’s largest number of active satellites. It is known that as of the end of January 2020, the company had 242 satellite orbiting the planet, and planned to launch another 42 000 within the next decade. As stated by the founder of the company SpaceX Elon Musk, the launch of such a large number of artificial satellites is only part of an ambitious project to provide global Internet access around the world. However, according to a study published on the portal livescience.comhuge number of satellites in orbit could become a threat to humanity. So what is the catch the active deployment of orbital objects that are used primarily for communication?
Is it possible to hack the orbital satellites?
The beginning of the twenty-first century can rightly be called the era of the conquest of orbital space Lands by private enterprises. So, besides those already mentioned above, the company SpaceX to orbit our blue planet is already out of device giants such as Amazon, based in the UK OneWeb, as well as a number of other firms who are willing to bring into space thousands of satellites.
These new devices are able to revolutionize many aspects of our everyday lives — from providing Internet access in remote corners of the globe to environmental monitoring. However, the lack of standards and rules of cybersecurity for commercial satellites endangers the security of most developed countries in the world that can be truly vulnerable to cyber conflict.
So, if hackers manage to take control of even the smallest number of satellites, the consequences of such an incident can be devastating. Hackers might be able to jam or spoof satellite signals, creating chaos inside a given state and the breaking performance of the electric, water and transport networks.
In addition, due to the fact that most new satellites have their own engines that allows the devices to move in space, hackers could change the orbit of satellites and make them crash into each other or even in the International space station.
The complexity of manufacturing satellites, forced to participate in the process of creating several groups of different manufacturers. Currently the organization — direct the owners of the satellites often pass the management of orbital devices in a special outsourcing companies. With each such step, the potential vulnerability of the equipment increases, as modern hackers have many opportunities to penetrate even the most secure system. Furthermore, it is known that the most vulnerable to attack are tiny satellites, CubeSats, used in scientific and educational purposes a number of universities and even schools. Hacking these devices weighing from 100 grams to 1 kilogram may be incredibly an easy task even for not very experienced hacker, having at its disposal a specialized terrestrial antenna.
The first case of seizure of the control of the satellite occurred in 1998, when hackers seized control of a German-American ROSAT satellite. The attackers then instructed the satellite to direct its solar panels directly at the Sun, which instantly fried his battery and made a satellite useless. A similar case occurred in the UK just a year after the first incident. Then the hackers held “hostage” satellites SkyNet with the ransom.
Due to the fact that currently there are no specific standards for the protection of satellites in the orbital space as a special body to regulate cybersecurity, responsible for the satellites falls on their manufacturers. However, even for companies that attach great importance to cyber security, the costs associated with ensuring the security of each component can be prohibitive and may even exceed the cost of the satellite.