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Space Security(?)




Hey Steve. Long-time listener, first time writer. Found you via Spinrite, not the other way 'round, but have been a regular listener and now watcher for years. You have been responsible for many conversations between me and Management where I work. Our IT department has always been severely lacking in the Department of Forward Thinking, so it's usually up to me to bring certain things to their attention. So thank you for that, from myself and from all the taxpayers whose data you've been instrumental in protecting.

But enough praise! I have a serious question, and haven't seen anyone addressing it yet. Space Security. I was just watching a show about the immense number, variety, and complexity of literal swarms of spacecraft we have in orbit. And yeah, many are merely satellites, but the number of smart ones, some of which work and cooperate in "swarms" depending on their purpose, is growing at an apparently exponential pace (I'm obviously not big on math, but work with me here!) And they're getting smart enough that they're now analyzing data PRIOR to sending it down to home base for processing, making decisions about what data is best, combining it with data from others in the swarm, and so on, and so on. Plus, now some of them are being developed as "garbage collectors", which means they'll have to be able to navigate, fly to, and capture other satellites. Right now it looks like they just de-orbit dead satellites and such, but it's only a matter of time before the "junk" is worth keeping for re-use, materials, and so on. But that's a whole other thing.

My question is, in light of the importance those critters up there are to our future, can we afford to follow our oft-repeated course of ignoring the security ramifications of all that software and hardware floating around up there? It seems to me that is, or will soon become, a target-rich environment for anything from prankware, to malware, to even ransomware. As you've noted, the threat actors are becoming more professional in their attacks, because there's big money in it. How much could you charge a large network to get their satellites back?

I don't know, maybe I'm just crying wolf. But I do note that the show I'm watching is two years old, so... not sure what we've got up there right this minute. Historically, Security is the last thing added to new technologies. I don't believe we can wait ten years to get this one worked out. (And I won't get into the whole thing about corporations not able to do updates on computers they can actually touch!)

The good news is that I don't believe many of the Smart Satellites run Windows 10. :)

Thanks for listening to me. Usually it's the other way 'round!




Really, the biggest risk is some attacker being able to control a satellite long enough to cause a collision that leads to a Kessler Syndrome event. That would forever trap humanity on Earth while we wait for the next planet killing asteroid to hit (one of the one in 100,000 year ones that are overdue.)




Then we'd be in a Dr. Evil scenario, where the hackers hold the world hostage for ... ONE MILLION DOLLARS! 😀




I'll admit to only skimming the OP. But, the risk of space sabotage depends on the skill of the satellite programmers. It's a good question. If hackers could de orbit a large satellite, it could possible create non trivial damage by crashing into some place on Earth. Not only that, sabotage of a military weapons satellite, assuming there are some up there, could have world changing ramifications. Even taking over communications or GPS satellites and disrupting their operation could create millions of dollars of economic damage. Almost all satellites receive control signals from the ground. Something to think about.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron