Thousands of ethical hackers and security researchers have gathered at Las Vagas for the world’s largest hacker convention. At the blackhat information security conference, researchers have revealed that satellite communications could be used by hackers to launch ‘cyber-physical attacks’ and turn their satellites into massive microwave ovens.
According to Guardian, ‘The satellite communications that ships, planes and the military use to connect to the internet are vulnerable to hackers that, in the worst-case scenario, could carry out “cyber-physical attacks”, turning satellite antennas into weapons that operate, essentially, like microwave ovens.’
In a presentation building off prior research, Ruben Santamarta of security firm IOActive warned that the communications used by ships, planes, and the military are vulnerable to hackers.
‘The consequences of these vulnerabilities are shocking,’ Santamarta said
‘Essentially, the theoretical cases I developed four years ago are no longer theoretical.
‘We’re basically turning Satcom devices into radio frequency weapons,’ Santamarta said. ‘It’s pretty much the same principle behind the microwave oven.’
Satellite systems could also be used to leak information, the expert said.
Guardian noted that ‘The attack works by connecting to the satellite antenna from the ground, through the internet, and then using security weaknesses in the software that operates the antenna to seize control.
From there, the potential damage varies. At the very least, the attack offers the ability to disrupt, intercept or modify all communications passed through the antenna, allowing an attacker to, for instance, eavesdrop on emails sent through an in-flight wifi system, or attempt to launch further hacking attacks against devices connected to the satellite network.’