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back to article Inside the mysterious US satellite hacking case

The cause and perpetrators behind interference against two US scientific satellites remains unknown to American military commanders more than three years after the mysterious event. The Congressional US-China Economic Security and Review Commission said in its latest annual report that two US-maintained environment-monitoring …

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Coat

Get Ryback

Sorting the perps out would be all in a day's work for Steven Seagal, after all he did precisely this in Under Siege 2.

Mines is the one with the O'Reilly Big Book of Satellite Hacks in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Some systems are quite secure

I know of one site on Gran Canaria run by the Spanish which serves a lot of EU space interests, they have key systems on internal network(s) with no internet connection *at all*.

A separate and fairly well firewalled network is used for email and dealing with outside matters.

I suspect the Norwegian site is similarly configured for security, after all, its not rocket science...

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I hate to burst your bubble, but...

Didn't the Iranian Nuclear program have similar safeguards? What about the US's Reaper & Predator drone CnC networks?

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It does not really matter if you have firewalls, seperate networks.

A well paid informant at the company, a bribe employee or even a emplyee having his memory sticks replace by with a dodgy one.

Security is only as good as the humans doing it, the Iranian nuclear plants were penertrated using a memory stick, either a dodgy one replace a scientist standard stick or it was place in a location for a scientist or someone else to pick up and as the people behind the attack hope plug it into there secure network.

As to the Americans moans, I am certain that they have wrote and prepare plans for fighting a war with space born infrastructure that are on the same lines as the Americans and Russia and Chinese have in place.

If they have not then the Americans are not doing there job probably.

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Anonymous Coward

Out in the real world ......

Have you ever been to spitzbergen? Its a long way away. Do you really think NASA want to fly data back in suitcases every 2 hours after their sat has passed over and downlinked?

I am writing software as we speak to command and control EU space interests, and none of it will be installed on closed computers. How on earth does a satellite operator respond to hourly business needs in London that requre reconfiguration of a network of satellites using a network of redundant ground stations? To suggest that you can do all of this from a closed system is nonsense. If the assets you describe are run from a closed system from Gran Canaria they I would suggest that they are more vulnerable than the real systems in the real world.

If Gran C is the only control centre for these EU assets you speak of, then they're either Geostationary (i.e probably telecoms / commercial) or you only get a link from LEO once / twice a day, which is no use to man or beast.

In short, your post bears no relation to reality.

Anon - i'm at work :-)

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Anonymous Coward

@I hate to burst your bubble, but...

Yes, but both your examples also used Windows. Almost all of the systems on this site were Solaris/Linux, so a tad more difficult to exploit by the infernal "autorun" feature.

So yes a physical attack is always possible, but I can't see it is that valuable to have major gov agencies attempting to breach it, unlike the Iranian plant.

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Anonymous Coward

@Out in the real world ......

"If Gran C is the only control centre for these EU assets you speak of, then they're either Geostationary (i.e probably telecoms / commercial) or you only get a link from LEO once / twice a day, which is no use to man or beast."

No, it is not the *only* one.

Quite a lot of the systems can operate without regular contact, and they can move stuff (orbital elements, schedules, batches of data) manually as needed. Some are on-line with very tight firewall rules to specific destinations, but others not connectible at all which causes a bit of friction in terms of ease of coordination.

"In short, your post bears no relation to reality."

I think my reality from having been there and dealt with one such system is more real than your assumptions based on other sites.

Anon as also at work.

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Anonymous Coward

When you discover an intrusion like this, that's not causing major harm, you don't report it to the company and shut it down. You let it run for a while, watch what is done, and try to trace it back. Then you shut it down quietly, preferably with the organisation running it. Sounds like the US won this round.

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WeeeHooo! everybody, more military budget for everyone

Enough said.

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FAIL

"In particular, six unnamed IT ... wide open to attack ...unpatched software"

Maybe NASA could hire some competent network security engineers before accusing a foreign power of hostile activity. It appears that every teenager and their dog can penetrate their systems.

Regarding satellite control links, there is strong cryptograpghy (e.g. 3DES) and strong hashing (e.g. SHA) around for quite some time now. Time to hire some real computer scientists, I assume.

To sum it up - American incompetence paired with American bellicosity.

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All the true greats, like you, live in their mom's basement. How does NASA manage without you, Walter Mitty?

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Gold badge

Double-standards / paranoia?

I read through the list of "potential Chinese counterspace activities" and thought it sounds just like the same list for the US (but it's OK for them). In the end there is no evidence of an intrusion, no evidence of any influence from China, just a report of 2 "anomalous events" on 2 satellites.

I don't know what these "anomalous events" were, but it sounds suspicious; a similar anomolous event occured only days ago, rendering a Russian Mars mission in crisis; also there was Galaxy-15 that had an anomalous situation and stopped responding to telecoms; NASA even lost a couple of sats due to "anomalous" shoud failures during launch, and the Russians also lost a Progress freighter due to an anomaly. All the work of the Chinese too?

And this report about Chinese warmongering from a country which last week boasted of being able to shoot at any target in the world in 20 minutes. I'm not sure I know who to believe, just that I want to move to a new planet.

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Mushroom

Funny that

I think some folks have mastered the art of dealing with cognitive dissonance.

They will in the same breath condemn foreign hackers peeking into US assets and claim it as a just cause for military retaliation, and also cheer on hacks on Iran or a number of other sovereign states.

Perhaps this is a new subspecies homo credula

Mind you the whole Vietnam thing was based on people claiming that had been attacked but couldn't show any actual evidence for it - didn't stop them then, won't stop them now.

In a belief-based world, who needs evidence?

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Trollface

"and thought it sounds just like the same list for the US"

Same here.

That's because you must thing in US-centric terms.

When Hillary says that China must "play by the rules". What rules are that? Why, let the Whitey Cowboy do as he well pleases.

The US is the only one running around like a rabid dog declaring "space supremacy" (note: "supremacy", not "capability") a must have. And it has no money.

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Anonymous Coward

@Destroy All Monsters

Possibly China should play by the rules of USA/The west because their entire economy relies upon trading with USA/The west and without trade with USA/The west they'd be screwed?

Just a thought.

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Holmes

I don't know whether barking "obey now or I will stop buying your stuff" at one of your biggest creditors is a very credible threat.

The more so as the US gvnmt relies heavily on China buying US gvnmt bonds in exchange for their dollars. Once back in the US, these can then be non-productively used to finance wars etc. Even Goldman-Sachs would hard-pressed to shift all these obligations.

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Gold badge

@AC

"Possibly China should play by the rules of USA/The west"

Really? So China should find a country that has something it wants (oil, route for an oil pipeline, etc.), make up some story about red commies, WMD, terrorists, etc. and just invade them?

I'm not sure I want any more countries acting like that; it seems to me that we've got too many of those already.

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Silver badge

Bah!

This "cyber attack" was probably just a Windows XP update being uploaded.

I turned on a machine I hadn't used in a while and watched Micorsoft, Adobe, Symantec et al conduct about an hour-long "cyber attack" on it on Saturday.

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FAIL

Captain Obvious

If we're so damn paranoid and concerned about China, then we probably should opt not to continue to BUILD stuff there!

Duh

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Gold badge
Happy

@joe.user

"If we're so damn paranoid and concerned about China, then we probably should opt not to continue to BUILD stuff there!"

But dash it man they are so damm *cheap*.

American companies can resist any amount of legislation but they have no defense against a lower price.

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if only those African countries would get there act together, stop fighting civil wars and start making stuff for the West, may be then we can someone else make all our stuff for at the same price as the Chinese or even cheaper.

Or perhaps we could learn to live with thing being much more expensive being made in this country.

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Mushroom

Eee, when I was a lad and it were all green screens round here

I've just done a find and replace, changing China to Russia. Quite took me back; I felt like it was 1981 again, CND were on the march and Reagan was up for bombing Brezhenev.

Plus ca change...

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Facepalm

Funny how everybody wants to blame China when there is no proof.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/17/romania_nasa_hacker_charged/

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Mckinnon's revenge?

I'll get my mask

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Anonymous Coward

heh, pork barrels looking a little iffy, time to stoke the rhetoric for a new cold war up a little bit.

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