Hackers hacked into a space satellite to show movies: anyone can repeat

A group of Shadytel hackers hacked into a commercial satellite to broadcast movies and talks from a cybersecurity conference. It is reported by Motherboard.

On August 13, Karl Koscher spoke at the DEF CON conference in Las Vegas and told how, together with friends, he legally took control of the Anik F1R satellite located in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 35,786 km from the Earth’s surface. According to the hacker, they gained access to a small room with equipment needed for a satellite connection, which was not in use at the time. The team was able to hack into the system using Hack RF, a software-defined radio costing about $300, and then broadcast the signals to the decommissioned spacecraft.

Hacker added that the team obtained an uplink license and leased a satellite transponder, which is a device that opens a channel between the receiving and transmitting antennas. This helped set up streaming (streaming) of talks presented at the 2021 hacker conference ToorCon in San Diego, while classic hacker movies such as WarGames were broadcast at night.

The Anik F1R’s service life came to an end in 2020, and it was supposed to be sent to the so-called “graveyard orbit” in November 2021. As Kosher explained, the abandoned satellite could be used by anyone who would establish contact with it. During his speech, he informed the rest of the hackers that it was possible to control the spacecraft both with access to the outgoing communication line and without it.

“Satellites basically just reflect whatever signal they send. There’s no authentication or anything. If you’re talking loud enough and if there’s another user on that transponder, you have to yell louder than that. But if there’s no one there, the machine just repeats after you,” said Karl Kosher.

Belgian engineer Lennert Wouters hacked SpaceX’s Starlink terminal with a $25 chip. The specialist discovered a critical vulnerability in the protection system, which can only be fixed by a complete replacement of the microcircuits.

At the beginning of the year, hackers hacked the Viasat satellite Internet system. As a result of the attack, Ukraine and other European countries suffered.

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