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back to article Boffins fix dead satellite using 'dirty hack' in space

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 …

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Linux

Wrong Samba

Not the first time Samba's been hacked :D

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Here's someting that they should've tried before stating that dirt-hack.....

"apt-get install samba-client"

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Boffin

Now *that*...

... is what "hacking" is really about!

It's just a shame that the general media have no clue and use the same word to describe DDoS attacks etc...

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Standard support desk response

Did you try switching it off and back on again?

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Facepalm

It was off

That was the problem... the on button is in space and there is no way to reach it! Last time they let the work experience kid fault find using the help guide.

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Kid you not but....

NASA launched a satellite that was turned off, and the "on" button was on the side of the satellite; they had to retrieve it using the shuttle to turn it on!

*Some poetic license employed to make this appear funnier than it really was (the switch was supposed to operate as the satellite separated from it's launcher, but didn't)

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Facepalm

I think thats what caused the problem...

They tried to reboot it by switching it off, then realised a little to late that the on switch was in orbit.

Its a little bit further and harder to get to than gaining entry to the secure server room in the basement of your office.

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@AC 07:35

You think it's obvious, but didn't somebody once send a telecommand to switch off the recievers on a piece of kit to save power, without thinking about how the kit would receive the telecommand to turn them back on (or do anything else) ?

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love it

Dont you just love it when some so called super intelligent boffin, the best of the best, makes a total balls up of common sense...

Its like how NASA spent $10M (or whatever it was) to get a pen to work is space... whereas the Russians used a pencil!

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FAIL

re: love it

"Its like how NASA spent $10M (or whatever it was) to get a pen to work is space... whereas the Russians used a pencil!"

This, again, FFS...? This has been debunked so many times -- even here in el Reg's comments pages, even an AC should have learned it by now.

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

Like the Russians, NASA used pencils before inventor Paul Fisher presented them with his privately-funded and designed pressurized pen for consideration. Like the Americans, the Russian space program bought and still currently uses Fisher's pen.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin also, reportedly, confirmed to author Spider Robinson at a conference once, the rumor that a Fisher pen was used to fire the main liftoff engines for the Apollo 11 Lunar Module when the original toggle switch got broken off while he and Neil Armstrong were removing their bulky EVA packs in the cramped crew compartment -- a task that would likely have been impossible with a pencil.

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@AC 13:01

"Its like how NASA spent $10M (or whatever it was) to get a pen to work is space... whereas the Russians used a pencil!"

You're close, but off on a few small details The "Fisher Space Pen" was developed independently and then sold to NASA for the staggering cost of $1.98 a piece. American astronauts used to carry pencils with them but eventually realized that filling their space capsules with conductive and easily broken graphite sticks wrapped up in flammable wood wasn't as good an idea as they had originally imagined.

The Russian solution wasn't to use a pencil, it was to carry grease pencils for writing on plastic sheets. By 1969 they switched to buying the same Fisher Space Pen that their American counterparts did.

So to correct your little anecdote, "Its like how NASA spent about two dollars for a commercial pen that could write in space... whereas the Russians imported exactly the same pen."

Not quite as punchy, but it does have the advantage of having more than a passing acquaintance with what actually happened.

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Trollface

yes yes yes...

i did indeed know it has been debunked, but you cant have two icons so I tossed a coin and the troll one lost !!!

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Linux

And the solution was?

There's no point only telling us it was a "dirty hack" - we need the details so if the same thing happens on our satellites we know how to fix it too.

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Devil

If they go giving that sort of info away

how are they going to maintain their indispensability as Satellite Operators From Hell? Much less blackmail the Boss into giving them a payrise...

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Pirate

Bad Samba, Bad!

Yes. we want to know!

ESA is probably sitting on the info considering it a "confidential/restricted" or some such crap. Or they phoned the DoD to use one of their rumored manipulator-equipped orbital "Arrrhh! Grappling Hooks!!" vehicles.

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Disclosure policy

I hear they've written a full description for BUGTRAQ, but they're giving the vendor 30 days to ship a fix.

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Mini ice age

This is good news, especially since it can shed more light on the reason behind the predicted-to-be-coming mini ice age.

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My lasting regret

is that I turned down a job with a firm called Marcol (whatever happened to - google shows little) which would have been working for the ESA.

Great stuff lads !!!!!

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Meh

@AC 12:57

If its any consolation, don't carry that regret. I work for the ESA and most of the time its like having your teeth pulled. Unless you like generating mountains of documentation that no-one will ever read, then you should regret it.

Anon ? Of course.

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Coat

re MARCONI

They had a super management who, judging by their pay-off, basically wasn't at fault for reality being different to their vision and company went into a nose dive trying to ride telecoms bubble (or something like that anyway)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2746437/Marconi-cuts-debt-by-300m.html

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Coat

SAMBA cluster fucked

Power cycle hack makes it all better.

#alt heading

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Boffin

Hurrah!

Good effort lads. I am reminded of John Aaron saving the launch of Apollo 12.

oh, and just incidentally, !SPACE!

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Happy

John Aaron

Can't beat setting SCE to Aux! ;o)

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I just wish

You had given us more detail on what the clever hack entailed. I love that kind of stuff.

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Yay for the White Hats...

A finer piece of beneficial hacking boffinry has seldom been seen.

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WTF?

Yes but

what did they DO?

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Happy

Manuals... Pffff!

Real hackers know that schematics and sources are the only "manuals" to be trusted, but only if they match what you're looking at.

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Coat

Dirty Hack

I thought a "dirty hack" was an unwash journalist ..

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Holmes

"Dirty Hack"

In some parts of 'merkin' land, an "Dirty Hack" is an unwashed (taxi) cab driver.

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Coat

I used to eat golf balls?

IT? Non Standard Procedure? So they did "something else" rather than reboot.

So next time I restart an sql service instead of rebooting it can I claim a dirty hack? :)

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Haha

So long as you use management services and not configuration manager!

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Pint

"dormant software"

Intriguing.

Real engineers know when all else fails you can fall back on the ultimate methodology :- J.F.D.I.

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Happy

The secret hack

They just sent it an out of parameter command like "engage ludicrous speed", the system crashed and re-booted. It can also be done by holding the Turbo button down.

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And, I was thinking of trying to liken it a vestigial tailbone of DNA code...

"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."

A human might not NEED a vestigial tailbone, but an unconscious one might be quickly roused (waken up, not gotten up, hehehe) by it being zapped with a few bolts or volts... (the overly KINKY humans might be STABBED or severed or savaged by one)... So much

But, calling this a dirty hack makes it sound like dirty, pointless code fragments were not removed and were not "how tos", hehehe

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WTF?

This article is lame - where are the tech details that us geeks really want?

You tease the the readers with an account of a 'Dirty Hack', but then completely fail to disclose ANY of the details...

--WTF?

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Black Helicopters

They should have kept quiet

It won't be long before they are picked up, have all their computers confiscated, and are questioned for hours on end for violating some law. Don't worry they'll be released because the prosecutor will figure out he doesn't have jurisdiction in space but it might take a year to get the computers back.

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Pint

Hmm...

Dormant software? Something likely to hit a INT13H in an obfuscated circuit or something? Wouldn't that make the hack both hardware and software?

Ow, I am curious... Dang, I'm still dizzy.

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Hack ?

Standard: Run 500 tests followed by auto power-on if successful.

Hack: Send "power-on" command manually.

Some hack, huh ?

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Alien

I have to agree with the consensus

Knowing what they did is mildly interesting, knowing how they did it would be fascinating.

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Coat

Hacking

But,... but... hacking in Germany is not allowed. I guess the offices in Darmstadt will be raided sooner than later. One law fits all and that.

BTW, I'm waiting for a pastebin of juicy database info from orbit.

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Go NASA!

That is all.

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Joke

go NASA ?

Where do you want NASA to go?

Also don't ask them to go too far, or they will have to get a lift from Roscosmos :)

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Happy

Dirty Hack!

Sounds like something that actually worked but wasn't learned in school?

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Holmes

details, details...

I assume they wont hand over the details of the "dirty hack" because it would involve revealing that the login user-name and password were admin & admin and someone change it, forgetting to write it on the post it note stuck to the side of the monitor. so they had to use a copy of backtrack to hack it....

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Anonymous Coward

Dirty Hack?

"Dirty hack" seems to refer to anything that isn't in the book of standard procedures. The guys who wrote the book of procedures wrote a new procedure to cope with an unforeseen situation and tested it on one of the other spacecraft. It's not rocket science - because that's the work of the Launcher guys!

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Odyssey 5 reference

They just sent the appropriate command - "leviathan"

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Did they send up...

...Clint Eastward and co?

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Alien

The hack was...

They used a redundant holographic emitter boosted through the deflector array to deliberately misalign the EPS manifold and cause a warp-core overload, which automatically shut down the reactor, at which point the power couplings disengaged and the system was reset by the secondary command processor in a bio-neural gel pack.

Obviously.

Pfft.

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Joke

Actually...

They just reversed the polarity. The switches then go from 'Off' to 'On'...

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henchan

For want of a dirty hacker, the dirty hack was not lost.

For want of the dirty hack, an open power switch was not lost.

For want of the open power switch, a WEC was not lost.

For want of the WEC, a Samba was not lost.

For want of the Samba, a Cluster was not fucked.

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