Chinese Military Blamed For Hacking U.S. Satellites

A draft report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission claims that in 2007 and 2008, two U.S. satellites were hacked into, most likely by the Chinese military. From Information Week:

China’s military was likely responsible for hacking two U.S. satellites on four separate occasions several years ago, activity that could pose major threats to these types of operations if more serious intrusions occur, according to a Congressional report.

Two satellites–one controlled by NASA and the other by the space agency and the U.S. Geological Survey–experienced interference several times between October 2007 and October 2008, according to a draft report by the the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The report is scheduled to be available publicly next month.

Hackers gained access to the satellites through Svalbard Satellite Station, a ground control station in Spitsbergen, Norway.

While these incidents did not cause any major harm or damage, this type of intrusion could pose a major threat to a satellite with “more sensitive functions,” according to the draft report.

While the report does not name the Chinese government outright, it does note that the hackers had ties to the Chinese hacking community and that their work appears consistent with Chinese military writings. From Bloomberg:

U.S. military and intelligence agencies use satellites to communicate, collect intelligence and conduct reconnaissance. The draft doesn’t accuse the Chinese government of conducting or sponsoring the four attacks. It says the breaches are consistent with Chinese military writings that advocate disabling an enemy’s space systems, and particularly “ground-based infrastructure, such as satellite control facilities.”

U.S. authorities for years have accused the Chinese government of orchestrating cyber attacks against adversaries and hacking into foreign computer networks to steal military and commercial secrets. Assigning definitive blame is difficult, the draft says, because the perpetrators obscure their involvement.

The commission’s 2009 report said that “individuals participating in ongoing penetrations of U.S. networks have Chinese language skills and have well established ties with the Chinese underground hacker community,” although it acknowledges that “these relationships do not prove any government affiliation.”

October 28, 2011 12:27 PM
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