Hackers Could Deliberately Crash Satellites In Future Attacks, Warns Report

It could lead to a 'global catastrophe'.

Experts have warned that in the future hackers will be turning their attention to the thousands of satellites in orbit, and the consequences could be “catastrophic”.

A new report from Chatham House - an independent policy institute - highlights the very real danger that is the future of cybercrime taking place in space.

Marcin Janiec via Getty Images

Almost all of the world’s infrastructure is dependent in some way or another on objects that are currently in space.

Whether that’s communication satellites, navigation satellites or information relay satellites which can transmit huge quantities of data around the globe.

As the report points out, just a single attack on one of these satellites could lead to a “catastrophic level of cascading satellite collisions.”

The bad news continues as the report explains that “the pace at which technology evolves makes it hard, or even impossible, to devise a timely response to space cyberthreats.”

The report argues that one of the biggest dangers for combating cybersecurity however isn’t the technology but the people involved in making the decisions around cybersecurity.

“Humans too are affected by ‘digital ageing’ and legacy issues, and younger people use space-based and cyber communications in ways that make it difficult for older generations – and thus by implication some senior decision-makers – to fully understand the range of technologies and threats” it says.

How would a hacker take down a satellite?

There are a number of points of entry which include hacking the ground control centre back on Earth, hacking the communication networks which utilise the satellites or even targeting the delivery rockets themselves.

Who would launch a cyber attack on a satellite?

The report suggests a number of plausible antagonists including governments attacking each other, well-resourced criminal organisations seeing financial gain and even terrorist groups who would be looking to do the most amount of damage.

How do we protect against a cyber attack in space?

Chatham House recommends that the implementation of a “multilateral space and cybersecurity regime is urgently required.”

Rather than having governments organise this regime however the report recommends that fast-paced lightly enforced regulation be created by both governments and independent space companies like SpaceX.

The hope being that it would create a “community of the willing” - companies and countries who are hugely invested in the space industry and want to see it protected.

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