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Ethical hackers hired by the space agency were directed to compromise the orbiting satellite in an effort to discover any vulnerabilities that could be potentially exploited by nefarious threat actors.
The live test was conducted during CYSAT, one of the largest cybersecurity and space industry events in the world, held in Paris last week.
“The goal: show space engineers how hackers think, what damage they can do on a satellite & how an attack can be detected, remedied, and eventually prevented,” CYSAT said.
Thales, a digital technology firm headquartered in Paris with its own dedicated aerospace and defense departments, provided the four-man research team.
The Thales team was able to take full control of the demonstration satellite, including accessing the onboard system used to manage the payload’s global positioning system, attitude control system, and onboard camera. This resulted in the ability to compromise data being sent back to earth, specifically by modifying the images captured by the satellite’s camera.
The team was also able to “achieve other objectives such as masking selected geographic areas in the satellite imagery while concealing their activities to avoid detection by ESA.”
The team, was also able to exploit several vulnerabilities to introduce malicious code into the nanosatellite’s systems.
“With the growing number of military as well as civil applications that are reliant on satellite systems today, the space industry needs to take cybersecurity into account at every stage in the satellite’s life cycle, from initial design to systems development and maintenance, “said Thales VP of Cyber Solutions Pierre-Yves Jolivet.
As reported by cyber news.