Amid all the fanfare of SpaceX's new satellite launches, a critical danger has flown under the radar: the lack of cybersecurity standards and regulations for commercial satellites, coupled with satellites’ complex supply chains and layers of stakeholders, leaves them highly vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Hackers could also jam or spoof the signals from satellites, creating havoc for critical infrastructure. This includes electric grids, water networks and transportation systems. Some of these new satellites have thrusters that allow them to speed up, slow down and change direction in space. If hackers took control of these steerable satellites, the consequences could be catastrophic. Hackers could alter the satellites’ orbits and crash them into other satellites or even the International Space Station. Hackers could also hold satellites for ransom.
A scenario played out in 1998 when hackers took control of the US/German Rosat x-ray satellite. They did it by hacking into computers at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland. The hackers then instructed the satellite to aim its solar panels directly at the sun. This effectively fried its batteries and rendered the satellite useless.
Looks like space is the next frontier.... and sad to say as some examples have already happened in the past this is probably going to start happening more and more. Humans can be so innovative, creative, and kind; but that innovation can also be turned to such destructive and evil purposes. The Internet, satellites, vehicles, etc all start out for such good purposes and then humans make them destructive, so much so that the lock-downs mean we often all lose out on the intended benefits. Humans (similar to the few that troll, rape and murder) must be unique in the World with a desire to harm for no good reason. Imagine how much good humans could do if they all aligned themselves to do good.... wishful thinking though as what would we do with hundreds of millions of people employed in spying, security guarding, armies, counter-espionage, etc? Turn them into scientists and researchers?
Thousands of new satellites have the potential to revolutionise many aspects of everyday life. Amid all the fanfare, though, a critical danger has flown under the radar: the lack of cybersecurity standards and regulations.