Security Bytes

Oct 27 2011   1:44PM GMT

Draft report highlights U.S. government satellites under attack

Robert Westervelt Robert Westervelt Profile: Robert Westervelt


Two U.S. government satellites came under attack four times in 2007 and 2008, according to a Bloomberg report.

Technologies designed to disrupt satellite communications are becoming more sophisticated and a dangerous threat to national security, according to a congressional commission that reviews U.S.-China relations.

In fact two U.S. government satellites were attacked four times in 2007 and 2008 through a ground station in Norway, according to a Bloomberg report, which sites information from a draft report expected to be issued next month by the U.S.-China Economic Review Commission.

According to Bloomberg, a Landsat-7 earth observation satellite system experienced 12 or more minutes of interference in October 2007 and July 2008. Hackers also interfered with a Terra AM-1 earth observation satellite twice, for two minutes in June 2008 and nine minutes in October that year, the draft says, citing a closed-door U.S. Air Force briefing.

Chinese officials have denied any role in computer attacks.

A 2009 report highlighted the rapid development of new cyber weapons (.pdf) and the growing need for cybersecurity to protect critical infrastructure. It found that Chinese researchers are working on a variety of radio frequency weapons that could potentially disrupt satellite communications. The goal is to develop sophisticated jamming systems and anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons to disrupt reconnaissance operations.

“In 2007, China successfully tested a direct ascent ASAT weapon that used a kinetic kill vehicle to destroy an aging Chinese weather satellite38 and in 2006, the US military accused the Chinese of using a laser dazzling weapon that temporarily blinded a reconnaissance satellite.”

SearchSecurity recently interviewed Tony Sager, chief operating officer of the Information Assurance Directorate at the NSA on cyberwarfare. Sager said nation-states are still understanding the complicated rules of engagement in cyberspace. Cyberwarfare is a reality and organizations should prepare for disruptions, he said. But Sager added that any catastrophic cyberattack would be disruptive worldwide including the systems used by the adversary, making the chances of a digital Pearl Harbor very slim.

“We’re all using this resource that we call the Internet and we all have a vested interest in keeping it alive,” Sager told earlier this month. “There are a lot of norms of behavior that have not been established yet….It took many, many years to establish things like what constitutes acceptable behavior between nations around physical borders and those are simple compared to cyberspace.”

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  • Wwq963
    The goal is to develop sophisticated jamming systems and anti-satellite.
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