Chinese military suspected of hacking US satellites

By Lee Kaelin on October 27, 2011, 5:00 PM

Hackers in the Chinese military are suspected to have interfered with two US satellites used for climate and terrain monitoring four times during 2007 and 2008, according to a congressional commission report due to be released next month.

"Such interference poses numerous potential threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions," according to the draft report. "Access to a satellite's controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite. An attacker could also deny or degrade as well as forge or otherwise manipulate the satellite's transmission."

The Landsat-7 Earth-observation satellite, managed by NASA experienced at least 12 minutes of interference in October 2007 and in July 2008. The second satellite, Terra-AM-1 also experienced interference for two minutes in June 2008 and another nine minutes in October of the same year.

Access was gained through the Svalbard Satellite Station in Spitsbergen, Norway, which "routinely relies on the Internet for data access and file transfers." Bloomberg said the report didn't give further details on the explanation of the term "interference" but noted that the hackers completed the steps required to command the Terra-AM-1 satellite, they didn't exercise the ability to use them, however.

While China was not directly accused of involvement, the report hints that China is behind most major incidents involving cybercrimes on the US government in recent years. In the commissions 2009 report it said, "individuals participating in ongoing penetrations of US networks have Chinese language skills and have well established ties with the Chinese underground hacker community." That doesn't provide proof they had Chinese ties and officials have long denied any involvement in attacks that would endanger the security interests of any country, including the US.

It did appear consistent with China's military policies of disabling enemies' space systems and in particular, ground-based infrastructures like satellite control stations. Since those who breached the satellite defenses have obscured themselves, it's unlikely they'll ever be known.




User Comments: 13

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ikesmasher said:

and we just now know...lol

aj_the_kidd said:

This looks like a job for "Anonymous"

superphoenix said:

Why don't you ever post something like US hacking Chinese satellite?

Win7Dev said:

superphoenix said:

Why don't you ever post something like US hacking Chinese satellite?

Because the US either doesn't do that, or they keep it private so you won't know about it. I'm betting on option two to be completely honest.

treetops treetops said:

China: "President Bush let us use your satellites"

Bush: "No, fool me once shame on me"

China: "We will give a crate of fortune cookies"

Bush: "Deal! but don't tell anyone do it private like"

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Oh, I'm quite sure the U.S. does it's fair share of shenanigans when it comes to this kind of stuff. For example, Stuxnet - the virus that brought down Iran's nuclear enrichment program appears to be the work of U.S. (and possibly Israeli) hackers.

Guest said:

This sounds like Lusitania

RH00D RH00D said:

superphoenix said:

Why don't you ever post something like US hacking Chinese satellite?

If I had to take wild guess I'd say it's because news of such activities does not exists. But that's just a wild guess though.

...

Guest said:

"Oh, I'm quite sure the U.S. does it's fair share of shenanigans when it comes to this kind of stuff. For example, Stuxnet - the virus that brought down Iran's nuclear enrichment program appears to be the work of U.S. (and possibly Israeli) hackers."

I would say that the work of Stuxnet looks closer to Israel in terms of attack vectors, optimization, non-published zero day exploits, etc... U.S. tends to be more bulky and more brute-force based on historical analysis of software that was leaked.

Guest said:

You will note that no military satellite was actually hacked because there secret & don't really exist. you can read up about this on wiki-leaks..

Guest said:

That is why public and military infrastructures should be separate regardless of cost or effort.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So... the hackers speak Chinese so this means the Chinese government were involved? That's like saying the Anonymous hackers speak English so they must be working for the US government.

Guest said:

If it's China, it's just another flavor of the month news. But if it was Iran, it's a nuclear war.

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