What if a Satellite gets Hacked?

Hundreds of very expensive and multi-ton machines are moving at sound speeds at miles above the Earth still operating on old software. These satellites are responsible for everything from taking weather measurements, GPS positioning, to carrying cell signals and providing internet and television. For the countries that own satellites of their own, these are priceless possessions. Even though the satellites become old or outdated, it is more expensive to bring the satellites down than to just leave it there. Hence most satellites stay up.

But the problem is that the outdated systems of these satellites make it more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The cost of such an attack will be very high. If a satellite stops operating life mattering online information or GPS signals would be unavailable at to people at times of utmost need. Another problem is that id the satellite is hacked and thrown out of its orbit, the debris of this satellite might collide with other satellites and destroy them as well. As scientists can’t access the computer systems of most satellites from the Earth, it is very difficult to find who is responsible for the damage caused. And since the number of satellites is growing year by year, the stakes are also growing.

The SpaceX and OneWeb have been authorized by the FCC to launch thousands of satellites in the coming years. So there will be a steep rise in the number of satellites. But a big risk is caused by older satellites, which when compromised by a cyber-attack will move out of its orbit and crash into other satellites. This problem can cause a cluster of collisions nearly destroying all the satellites that come around the nearby orbits as well.

Since space is a vacuum space a very tiny piece of trash is enough to dent and cause severe damage to a satellite. The hackers will not need to target new satellites which are difficult to penetrate but go for the older ones even to destroy the newer ones.

Outer space cyber-attacks are a very serious issue. If there is an attack on a country’s satellite and they are not able to find the “who” responsible for the attack, that might worsen the international politics between the countries. A bigger problem in space is that it is very difficult to identify whether it has been a malfunction or a cyber-attack since a technician can’t be sent to analyze the problem.