Feeds

5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

Just when you thought you were alone in the bath...

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Comment That the US and other nations operate spy satellites capable of taking very detailed photographs of Earth is not in doubt. But the idea that those satellites have been pressed into service to find downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, and that it is therefore possible to infer some of the satellites' capabilities, is very debatable.

That's not stopped some of the media from suggesting that the reason Australia's Maritime Safety Authority did not mention the source of the images it used as the basis for its decision to explore the Southern Ocean, was because to do so would reveal that they came from a military satellite.

In these post-Snowden days, such hints are serious stuff. The public knows a lot more about the scale and scope of US surveillance efforts than it did this time last year. Interest in such information remains keen.

But speculation the candidate MH370 debris was found by spooksats is obviously dubious, because the images ASMA has released are clearly marked as having their copyright assigned to DigitalGlobe, a US-based outfit known to operate at least three imaging satellites and which last year boasted it can, on request, photograph anywhere on Earth every 12 hours.

Satellite image of possible MH370 debris

The satellite image analysts believe may be MH370 debris. Click here to see at a larger size.

Also a well-established fact is that the US imaging satellite operators like DigitalGlobe are prevented from letting the public access the highest-resolution photographs their craft can capture. Those restrictions are made by the US government and DigitalGlobe appealed against them in September 2013.

As this report to a US Senate committee illustrates, that request has been taken seriously, largely for commercial reasons:

The Committee understands that a commercial data provider has requested licensing approval to collect and sell on the open market, electro-optical imagery with a ground sample distance of 0.25-meter. Recognizing the ability of U.S. commercial imagery providers to contribute more substantially to the national security mission at a lower cost point, and consistent with the U.S. policy of enabling U.S. companies to maintain a leadership position in this industry, the Committee encourages the GEOINT functional manager and the DNI to promptly review this licensing request. The Committee is concerned that foreign commercial imagery providers may soon be able to provide imagery at or better than the currently allowed commercial U.S. resolution limit of 0.5 meters. As foreign firms approach or surpass this level of resolution, current restrictions on U.S. commercial imagery data providers put the United States at a competitive disadvantage and may harm an industrial base that is important to national security.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
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.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.