back to article Hackers commandeer US government satellites

Hackers interfered with two US government satellites on four separate occasions in 2007 and 2008, according to a report scheduled to be released next month by a congressional commission. In June 2008 and again in October of the same year, a Terra AM-1 earth observation satellite operated by NASA experienced interference at the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody hell, it's Fox news....

    We know it was the Chinese, we have no proof, but they are all evil commies, so must be them, after all they hacked a website....

    1. IronTed

      I thought the Russians are better, no?

  2. Thomas 18

    Probably Brotherhood of Nod

    I hear they do that.

  3. Yag

    Svalbard Satellite Station in Spitsbergen?

    Coincidence, or randomly alliterative?

  4. atomic jam

    What we're all forgetting is

    what would you do if you had 12 minutes with a US government satellite?

    The beer icon, because tonight, the hottest topic in the bar will be

    "What would you do if you had 12 minutes with a US government satellite"

    1. Andus McCoatover


      Hackers tend not to be rocket scientists. Hand it over to Bruce Willis?

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Place a large bet with Ladbrokes on the imminent outbreak of World War III and collide it with a Chinese government one?

    3. Anteaus

      What I'd do.....

      Turn up the gain on the temperature sensors.

      Sit back and watch those carbon-trading stocks go through the roof.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your base are belong to us

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Move Zig

      For great justice!

  6. MH Media

    You've had your chips, mate

    Hmmm.. Aren't most of the worlds electronic chips sourced from China?

  7. despairing citizen

    8 Days a long time in cyber war fighting terms

    Last week we had "In the paper Cyber War Will Not Take Place Dr Thomas Rid confidently argues that hacking and computer viruses never actually kill people"

    Lets see how well that theory holds up, if you have the ability to command a satelite to de-orbit on to the city of your choice. (and yes this would be classed as an act of war if undertaken on behalf of a state against the populace of another state)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'classed as an act of war' but only ...

      ... if you can prove which country had done it. (of course that applies only if you are not the US)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "prove which country had done it"

        like all those WMD's Iraq had

        I'm sure the spin doctors could cook up another dodgy dossier to help a politician get his place in the history books, or build share value in the defence corp he is a major share holder of.

        Or you could plant the evidence to point to your enemies, and stand back and watch the US bomb the crap out of them for you, thanks to a little bit of hacking.

        cyberwar, not potential lethal, not sure which planet the good doctor was on.

  8. voice of unreason

    Missing it...very bad indeed...

    The point isn't that they got control of the spacecraft. It's the timing that is very not funny

    Two minutes the first time, nine minutes the second.

    Ever see a day-zero hack that took two minutes to be in & out, and successful first time?

    So, the first time, they already knew they could do it, had a procedure mapped as a command-script, and successfully proved-out the attack in the wild. That's bad enough - tells us that the real problem didn't come over the IP. The entire spacecraft and ops manuals etc were already compromised before the first bit hit the SAS modem. You can't read a spacecraft ops manual, or even guess the protocol on an open line, in two minutes. The spacecraft computer doesn't run Windows you know, and it doesn't communicate via TCP/IP to ground.

    It also tells us that even with full post-analysis, US DoD were unable to prevent the second intrusion.

    But the SECOND time it took them NINE minutes. What were they doing for all that time, four times longer than it actually takes? What can you ONLY do with nine minutes of US DoD observation-time. We have to assume that A) It was used to make clandestine images of a location & resolution that a Chinese sat can't manage. I doubt it, and not worth the risk for a factor of two or three in resolution.

    B) They uploaded a trojan to the sat. Which is now capable of spoofing any & all image-data from that spacecraft. Now, obviously you can't blind the US by blinding one or two sats out of hundreds, because there is the data from all the others, but you can INSERT soemthing. Like, say a nuclear launch from Moscow, causing a retaliation. When there is only a few minutes to respond, and 90% of US sats are currently out-of-range on the other side of the Earth to confirm for another 70 minutes

    I'd be way happier if the second attack was the same length as the first, proving to themselves that the US couldn't close the hole. Or there was just a whole series of them, which is basically the equivalent of the U2 over-flying the USSR just to wiggle two fingers it can't be shot down. But one short, one longer, on each satellite, and then nothing, suggests that whatever it is, the goal is now successfully complete.

    It's kind of not very funny at all. Because if anyone can suggest a better reason / attack that explains that timing, I do actually want to hear it....

    1. F111F

      Take a Deep Breath...

      ...and RTFA. They were NASA and USGS sats, not DoD/NRO birds. The DoD and NRO have dedicated communications to their satellites. Now that doesn't mean they can't be hacked, but it is a LOT harder. icon, so we can quaff one and relax.

      1. voice of unreason

        I did rtfa

        Did you read the post?

        1) mr president, we have confirmed launches seen by2 NASA birds and 3 usgs birds. We got both ir, vis and sar imagery. Something knocked out the only 2 dod birds over the area right now. It's ten minutes until the next three come over, and by then we will still have enough time, but it will be cutting it fine. What do you want to do,given we have 5 positive confirms in 3 bands?

        2) I really haven't the faintest what they are up to, and neither do you or anyone else. But I think whatever it is, is complete, successful and in place.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge


      If these are in low-earth orbit, you can only see them for a few minutes at a time before the Earth gets in the way of your line of sight.

      9 minutes sounds like quite a long time to me. 2 minutes could be how long it was in sight of the ground station if it didn't pass directly overhead.

  9. Error Message Silver badge

    The real issue

    Is the stupidity of using the internet for sensitive Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) functions for military and infrastructure C3 (e.g. power plants). What the US should do is create a network physically separate from the internet for their military C3I, and a another network physically separate from the internet for their infrastructure C3.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The South Americans gave been helping themselves for decades...

    Borrowing some airtime on certain US military bent-pipe satellites to chat with grandpa across the Amazon jungle. I read about it on the Interweb, so it must be true.

  11. DocJames


    "Committee set up to defend us against China finds lots of things China is doing that we need to defend against!"

    Looking for more power, cash and influence. That's why this has been reported.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virus check?

    Did they check whether the hacker installed a virus? I mean, after all, they are most likely running Windows

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone for a game...

    ...of space-satellite footie?

  14. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    The most significant thing in this report

    is what it reveals about the nature of the evidence which the so-called «US-China Economic and Security Review Commission» seems to feel suffices for claims of hostile acts by another power : zilch. But then again, it has been some time since pronunciamentos by organs of the US government could be taken as reflecting any reality other than the «faith-based» version promoted by both the previous and (less openly) the present administration....


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