Feeds

Hackers commandeer US government satellites

Blame China

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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 hands of hackers, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, citing the unreleased report. The draft doesn't elaborate on the interference, but it said the sessions lasted two minutes in the first incident and nine minutes in the second incident.

It also said "the responsible party achieved all steps required to command the satellite," although the hackers didn't actually exercise control over the craft.

A Landsat-7 earth observation satellite jointly managed by NASA and the US Geological Survey was commandeered for 12 minutes or longer on two occasions in October 2007 and July 2008, the report stated.

Both crafts use the commercially operated Svalbard Satellite Station in Spitsbergen, Norway, which "routinely relies on the internet for data access and file transfers," the report said. That has led to speculation the attackers may have hacked the internet connection to take control of the satellites.

"Such interference poses numerous potential threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions," the draft report warns. "Access to a satellite's controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite. An attacker could also deny or degrade as well as forge or otherwise manipulate the satellite's transmission."

The annual report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission goes on to say the breaches are consistent with the activities of China's military. The draft concedes that there's no hard proof of a direct connection, but recites a litany of other hacks in the recent past it claims suggest that China has "conducted and supported a range of malicious cyber activities."

Among them are allegations of an attack on the website of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group, based on video footage contained in a newscast aired on China Central Television 7. It also refers to a March 22 incident, in which US internet traffic was "improperly" redirected through a network controlled by the China Telecom Corp. Ltd. That's almost certainly a reference to a brief diversion of internet traffic sent between Facebook and subscribers to AT&T's internet service. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.