Securing satellites: The new space race
It has never been cheaper to launch a satellite into orbit. As a result, companies like Amazon, SpaceX and OneWeb have launched competing projects in order to join the new “space race”. Amazon for example wants to put a “constellation” of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit as part of Project Kuiper, a project that aims to provide “low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity” around the globe to “tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet.”
While this may sound like a positive development, it comes with serious security risks that need to be taken into account, according to Phosphorus Cybersecurity CEO Chris Rouland. This is because satellites resemble other Internet-of-things devices in that they are often poorly secured, making them vulnerable to attacks by state-backed hackers and other threat actors. In fact, satellite hacks have already occurred and as the number of satellites surges, so does the risk of such attacks. This is especially true since it has become relatively easy and cheap to carry out powerful cyberattacks, and because it is incredibly difficult to fix vulnerabilities in satellites once they have been launched into orbit.
Rouland believes that unless companies and governments step up their security efforts, satellites may become subject to attacks including ransomware infections because, “[w]ith limited actions they could take to combat the attack, satellite owners are likely to pay the ransom. The downside is just too great.”
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