Colin Mc Hugo

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Colin Mc Hugo
Security Engineer Manager & CEO at Quantum Infinite Solutions Group Ltd.
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Cyber Security Incident Response
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DEF CON 29: Satellite hacking 101

August 10, 2021

How peering into the innards of a future satellite tv for pc could make cybersecurity in area extra palatable

Right here at DEF CON 29, the Aerospace Village is alive and effectively, and other than the repeated wailing of the neighboring automobile hacking village setting the automobile alarm off each 30 seconds, the {hardware} sitting right here, referred to as a Flat Sat, hopes to assist make the way forward for satellite tv for pc safety considerably extra palatable.

This modular mashup of the heart of some future satellite tv for pc – effectively, the unclassified bits anyway – options more and more lifelike targets for the safety neighborhood to poke at. In years previous, the massive area firms had been very inquisitive about locking down every little thing of their spaceborne black packing containers. Not right here at DEF CON.

House is the place

I used to be stunned by what number of off-the-shelf elements are on this field, with more-or-less normal FPGA processor cores, I/O buses and the like. Reasonably than reinvent every bit of {hardware} and the communication protocols, they use normal I2C, SPI, variations of RS-422 and the like – issues we learn about.

For the Hack-A-Sat problem, Flat Sat management is the eventual goal. To make issues extra lifelike (since, , placing a hack goal in area is difficult), the Fiat Sat simulates the sensor inputs. These inputs are hoped to reply in methods consultant of issues truly in area. Meaning if you’ll be able to achieve entry to and manipulate the outputs of the FPGA I/O pins, the “sensors” will reply, letting you “moved” the “satellite tv for pc” and in what course. Cool stuff.

Besides it’s important to get to it first. If this had been in area, that will imply you’d have to start out with penetrating the bottom station. Then it’s important to achieve communication entry to the precise “satellite tv for pc”, then pivot throughout the structure to get to the FPGA that controls issues. After that you could attempt to make the system level to the solar, take an image and attempt to burn out the digicam sensor it doesn’t have. However it is going to certain act prefer it does.

When requested what the massive aerospace firms suppose, workers on the village answered that they’re joyful about it. I’m unsure that’s unbridled pleasure, or extra resigned pseudo-joy, but when they’re keen to indicate as much as the celebration, all the higher.

It is smart. Modular methods – together with payloads, launch methods and methods interfaces – make sense, particularly crowd-hardened ones, so you possibly can deal with delivering the key sauce you truly need to ship excessive into the evening sky.

And whereas satellites have tasty peripherals that do issues like hearth propulsion rockets for steering, handle photo voltaic vitality and do the fundamentals, in addition they have freakin’ lasers (for comms), which, in my view, is the signal of each good satellite tv for pc.

In addition they have antimalware performance, as a result of malware in area is simply so dangerous. In addition they have preventative measures in place like the power to fail gracefully, reboot to plain functioning firmware in case dangerous issues occur, and hopefully present a “protected mode” so you possibly can log in and sort things, assuming the propulsion hasn’t simply despatched your satellite tv for pc straight within the course of the solar at excessive velocity. The {hardware} will stand extremes, however melting within the solar might be past the scope of its design. At any price, perhaps it is going to ship you cool footage alongside the way in which, so don’t hack the digicam.

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