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31 October 2011, 10:00

US observation satellites hacked

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Globe According to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek, in 2007 and 2008, repeated attacks were made on the control systems of two US satellites, Terra AM-1 and Landsat 7, used for Earth climate and terrain observations and mapping. Bloomberg refers to excerpts in a final draft of the annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, due for publication next month.

The satellites are controlled via the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen. The Terra AM-1 satellite is understood to have been under the hackers' control for a total of eleven minutes in the course of two attacks in June and October 2008. Landsat 7 is reported to have been in the hackers' hands for a total of "12 or more minutes", during attacks in October 2007 and July 2008. During each of these incidents, it would have been possible for the hackers to fake data, control or even crash the satellites.

As the SvalSat station uses the internet for its control protocol and to communicate with NASA, the report suggests that the attack was internet-based. The article states that the nature of the attack appears to point to the Chinese military, though it stops short of making a direct accusation.


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