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Outer space at threat of cyber attack

cyber attack

According to new research from Chatham House, the next big cyber attack could be on space – and the consequences could be disastrous.

As noted by the think tank, much of the world’s critical infrastructure depends on space infrastructure. This includes communications, air transport, maritime trade, financial services, weather and environmental monitoring and defence systems. However, satellites and other space assets, like any other digitised infrastructure, are vulnerable to cyber attack.

Space infrastructure could be targeted by a number of sources, including:

  • States seeking military advantages in space or trying to steal intellectual property
  • Well-resourced organised criminals seeking financial gain
  • Terrorist groups seeking to promote their causes
  • Individual hackers trying to prove their skills

Attacks could come in various forms:

  • Jamming, spoofing and hacking satellites
  • Targeting the control systems or mission packages of satellites
  • Targeting ground infrastructure such as satellite control centres, the associated networks and data centres

The above methods could be used to shut down or steal information from communication networks, sabotage weather forecasting systems and even take complete control of satellites, thus turning them into weapons.

Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at cyber security firm Crowdstrike, said cheaper, more accessible technology has created a “lower barrier to entry” to hackers, in a comment to New York Post

“It’s increasingly more common to see these types of activities occurring. It’s certainly something that warrants additional scrutiny by security professionals.”

Chatham House has noted that there is not currently a global organisation in charge of cyber security in space.

“Development of a flexible, multilateral space and cyber security regime is urgently required,” reads the report.

“International cooperation will be crucial, but highly regulated action led by government or similar institutions is likely to be too slow to enable an effective response to space-based cyber threats. Instead, a highly regulated approach developing industry-led standards … will better promote agility and effective threat responses.”

“Space is no longer a technological playground for the privileged few countries involved in sending humans to the moon, spying on others or putting communications leviathans into geostationary orbit.”

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