For the First Time, U.S. Government Lets Hackers Break into Satellite in Space

For this week’s post, let us focus on this article from Politico that discusses Moonlighter, a satellite that is currently in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). This is the first time that the United States Government has allowed for five (5) teams of hackers, competing at the DEF CON cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas, to remotely seize control of Space Force Asset.

The teams are not only trying to break in to the satellite by build a data link to it; they are also trying to keep others from getting in by using encryption and firewall protections. As if the scientific discovery was not enough, there is a $50,000 prize for first place.

The main mission of this endeavor is to help the Space Force build more secure space systems and identify security gaps that could be exploited by China or other adversaries. There is precedent to these claims as hackers from China targeted an unidentified company’s satellite communications operator in 2018. It is unknown whether or not they were successful but it is a part of the overall strategy of China to develop capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites.