If James Bond style villainy seems to be a bit old fashioned, consider one congressional report coming out regarding tow major satellite hacks that took place in 2007 and 2008. The events, one of the strangest and potentially frightening arguments against space based weapons saw two satellites suddenly losing control. And if they had been more security sensitive, some are saying they could have caused quite a problem. But is this a glimpse of our near future?
It all started in October of 2007 when an unknown group of hackers started gaining access to one of NASA’s Landsat-7 satellites. For twelve minutes the hackers manipulated the satellite from an unknown location while technicians scrambled to figure out what had just gone wrong. The hackers had apparently gained access through the station’s internet connection. Eventually the stations returned to normal, and the mystery remained unsolved but no longer an immediate threat.
Then in 2008 another satellite, a Terra AM-1 lost control for two minutes, and then again for another nine minutes when the hackers apparently returned. Just as with the first event, this one was quick and unexplained, and largely affecting a satellite designed to survey climate. Though the data from this temporary interruption may have been less reliable, those in control of the system quickly regained access and put it back on course.
At the moment fingers are pointing at China, who has been blamed in the past for cyber attacks and disruptions in security. But without any conclusive proof over who could have been behind the event, the issue remained under investigation for years before finally being released now.
But satellites aren’t the only thing under threat of being hacked in recent years. Since the computerization of a number of items there have been hacking attempts made on a number of things once thought beyond simple hacking. A number of things that can hook into a computer have been found to have back doors in their security including even pace makers. Scientists in 2008 demonstrated that with a deadly combination of a wifi contraption and certain types of pacemakers that they could cause cardiac arrest in patients. Of course the idea of a wireless murderer was terrifying enough, but later models started addressing the matter proactively. But it was yet another reminder that the days where hackers were confined to computers were long gone. In 2011 everything from smart phones to cars and even it would appear satellites can be hacked wirelessly through one connection or another.
Will this sort of issue be enough to end the idea of satellite weapons? Considering how disastrous such a system falling into the wrong hands could be, the idea of a satellite under the control of a hostile nation or a small band of terrorists is certainly food for thought. Particularly now that we are learning about these incidents that took place years ago.