Feeds

Boffins fix dead satellite using 'dirty hack' in space

Eat that, LulzSec

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Engineers and ground controllers at the European Space Agency are overjoyed to announce that they have managed to bring an unexpectedly defunct, critical science satellite orbiting the Earth back to life – by hacking it.

Graphic depicting the Cluster satellite constellation in action. Credit: ESA

Forget user logins, this is real hacking

The satellite in question is known as "Samba", and is one of four sent up in 2000 to carry out specialist analysis of the solar wind. A loss of any of the quartet can be enough to invalidate the data from the others, so when Samba's vital Wave Experiment Consortium (WEC) instrument cluster went down in March, ESA controllers at Darmstadt in Germany were very upset.

"When everything goes as planned, flying a mission can be routine," says ESA's Manfred Warhaut, Head of Mission Operations. "But when unexpected trouble occurs, and there's nothing in the manuals, you really want to have an experienced and talented team on hand to solve the problem."

Warhaut and his fellow satellite experts feared that there had been a paralysing short circuit aboard the spacecraft, but managed to use a piece of dormant software in its computers to find out that in fact all five power switches on the WEC had locked closed – a condition that was considered unrecoverable according to the manual. The satellite simply was not supposed to be able to come back from that situation.

But as all hackers know, most kinds of system can be made to do things they aren't supposed to. The ESA's team managed in the end to hack Samba and get it to fire up its WEC again.

"The solution was based on a 'dirty hack' – jargon referring to any non-standard procedure – but we really had no other option," says Jürgen Volpp, Cluster operations manager.

According to an ESA statement, "Cluster has since returned to normal operation". ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
STEALTHY NANOROBOTS dress up as viruses, prepare to sneak into YOUR BODY
Cloaking techniques nicked from viruses tackle roadblocks on way to medical frontier
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.