China may have hacked US satellites

A US congressional commission has confirmed that hackers “interfered” with two government satellites between 2007-2008 via a Norwegian ground station.

According to Bloomberg, the Chinese military is suspected of executing the digital intrusions which targeted satellites used for earth climate and terrain observation.

”Such interference poses numerous potential threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions,” read a final draft report authored by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“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.”

Indeed, a Landsat-7 earth observation satellite system experienced 12 or more minutes of interference in October 2007 and July 2008, while hackers tapped into a Terra AM-1 earth observation satellite twice, for two minutes in June 2008 and nine minutes in October that year.

Interestingly enough, the report doesn’t actually accuse the Chinese government of sponsoring or executing the four attacks. 

However, it clearly states that the breaches are “consistent” with Beijing’s military doctrine which advocates disabling an enemy’s space systems, and particularly “ground-based infrastructure, such as satellite control facilities.”

In a conflict, the Chinese would try to “compromise, disrupt, deny, degrade, deceive or destroy” US space and computer systems, the draft claims, an act which could “critically disrupt the [the] military’s ability to deploy and operate during a military contingency.”