Report: Wars putting satellites at risk
August 25, 2022
By Chris Forrester
Wars and international conflicts are increasingly targeting orbiting satellites, says a report from Aerospace Corp.
The report says that as space-based services become ever more integrated with life and society on Earth, the international community will have to consider how commercial actors affect and are affected by crisis and conflict in space. Unfortunately, there are already plenty of examples of deliberate interference in satellites and their services.
Recent activity against satellite operators seems all-too deliberate. Other activity can include deliberate jamming of satellite signals and there have been plenty of examples of jamming in and around the Middle East, for example.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX donation of hardware and satellite modems to Ukraine saw an immediate counter response from Russia. ViaSat and Eutelsat suffered deliberate interference when on February 24th Russian hackers targeted Ka-Sat which meant significant damage to users and their ground-based networks. In May, intelligence reports from the US, UK, and the EU confirmed that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Ka-Sat craft.
Wind farm operators Deutsche Windtechnik and Nordex suffered from what is believed to be ransomware attacks. Another wind turbine operator, Enercon, had the company’s remote controls disabled in relation to the attack on Viasat’s network.
According to the French National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (ANSSI) there were 1,082 proven cyber intrusions last year, and a 37 per cent increase from a year earlier. While not each of these attacks were focused on satellites, many were.
A Russian hacking group (Killnet) happily went public with claims that it had successfully attacked Lockheed Martin because the business had supplied military equipment to Ukraine. Lockheed Martin, however, denied the reports.
Robin Dickey, space policy and strategy analyst at Aerospace’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy, is blunt in his warning, saying: “In crises and conflicts, commercial space actors risk getting caught in the middle of a tense and escalatory environment.”
Dickey sais that deliberate attacks can occur because commercial satellite system is misidentified as a military system, adding: “commercial companies will not be exempt if conflict breaks out.”