back to article Relax, satellite hacking is unlikely to lead to Earth-blinding Kessler effect – at least not yet

A satellite-killing debris field encircling the Earth isn't coming any time soon, but hackers working from Earth could help severely damage the planet's orbital traffic. Satellite systems specialist Elizabeth Wilson presented research to the Bsides hacking conference in Las Vegas showing that our machinery in orbit – and the …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Not Promising

    Considering (lack of) meaningful government response to climate change, my guess is that there will be far too little action, much too late.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Not Promising

      I think we'll see action on this. After all, the companies invested in satellites have everything to lose and nothing to gain by denying the problem, unlike with climate change where multi-billion dollar industries are invested in denying the problem exists.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

        Re: Not Promising

        Aaaaand there's the climate change denier.

        1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

          Re: Not Promising

          Aaaaand there's the downvote bot, keeping us humble.

    2. finlaythethinker

      Re: Not Promising

      WAKE UP people, climate change is a natural process and nothing to fear:

  2. Blackjack


    Next time your GPS doesn't work well, blame hackers?

    1. John McCallum

      Re: So...

      Next time your GPS doesn't work well, blame hackers? Nah just use a paper map.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: So...

        OS maps are the maps we all need and want.

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    "nation states need to come to an international agreement on satellite security standards"

    Right after they arrive at standards on all the IoT crap that is being foisted on mankind. And assuming that these standards are good, instead of lowest-common-denominator virtue-signalling by nations who want to be able to hack eachother's sattelites.

    (Civilization's end will come amidst a cataclysm of crashing satellites and exploding internet-connected pens and toasters. Meanwhile, I will be in my Montana mountain bunker complex, clutching my hunting rifle.)

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: "nation states need to come to an international agreement on satellite security standards"

      It's strange to think that Bhutan may become the most advanced nation in the world by default.

  4. Swiss Anton

    Space Lasers

    ESA have just launched a satellite equipped with a laser. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Space Lasers

      It's only an optical data link... right??

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That article about machine-guns in space?

    I had missed it on ElReg.

    You know, you could, like, do your own research? Like Slate did?

    "Brian Weeden, a space policy expert at the Secure World Foundation, told me in an email that the report that submachine guns will be built on the satellites is dubious and appears to have been a miscommunication."

    Using Le Point as a primary source, who does that mistake, FFS... I hope it was not intentional for the clickbait value. Please, don't do it again.

  6. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Cubes sailing in the gentle breeze

    Most satellites now are using low orbits. Your sat can crash, explode, or drift off course and you can count on the tiny bit of atmospheric drag bringing it all down and incinerating it. If it's loaded up with electronics that doesn't like radiation, a low orbit that decays gives a longer lifespan anyways.

    This does have a scalability limit, of course. Some crackpot with billions of dollars launching hundreds of thousands of social media/mesh network/free internet/live video/solving world hunger satellites would present a problem of them always falling. New satellite launches going up would have to somehow dodge the old ones coming down.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Cubes sailing in the gentle breeze

      New satellite launches going up would have to somehow dodge the old ones coming down.

      Obligatory Douglas Adams:

      Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

      I don't think any "dodging" will be necessary, the odds of that happening are significantly less than the odds of a meteorite striking a person - there are a lot more meteorites than launches and orders of magnitude more people than satellites, and this has still happened only once in recorded history.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm worried…

    won't the Kessler effect lead to a Helvetica Scenario?

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: I'm worried…

      What? I haven't heard of this. What kind of Font-laden horror is this? Will *shudder* Wingdings be involved?

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: I'm worried…

        I always knew Comic Sans would be the end of all humanity.

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Re: I'm worried…

          Terry P (mayherestinpiece) missed a trick there, failing to use comic sans to represent the voice of death.

  8. Cuddles Silver badge

    Odd attitude

    "The complexity of the Iridium air interface makes the challenge of developing an Iridium L-Band monitoring device very difficult and probably beyond the reach of all but the most determined adversaries"

    OK, so it's within the reach of determined adversaries. That kind of suggests that security would be a good idea. "Only highly motivate people with plenty of resources would be able to hack us, but why would anyone like that ever be interested in listening in on global communications?"

  9. John Jennings

    theoretical only

    There is very little chance of a true Kessler event for several reasons:

    As pointed out before - space is big - very, very big. Orbits can miss each others by very little - they are still a miss. Orbits are rarely perfectly circular - its not as if they are on some sort of racetrack. Exceptsions might be L2 - but there most of the 'sattellites' are planetary dust.

    It is expensive in weight and fuel to travel in any old direction. To maintain orbit, a sattelite must achieve high velocity . The vast majority steal some of the velocity from the spin of the earth - thus they almost all go west-east (a few go north/south to a greater or lesser extent). They then have a relatively low RELATIVE direction (if in an orbit). Relative to each other - of course. They are delicate, however, and of course bits can break off if there is a bump.

    An explosive detonation of a satelite may impart kinetic energy on some weird vectors - either by a missile/shootdown or a fault - however - its still much more likely that a natural event (bolide collision) would take out a sattelite than a collision.

    hundreds of thousands of LEO cubsats might be more of an issue - but even then - it will render a particular orbit difficult - not all of space. Cubesats dont maneuver currently - so hacking one would not trigger an event, as you couldnt drive it into anything. If there are large satellites in the same leo - then they have problems from drag and wont stay up for a long time.....


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