Black Hat USA 2018 which commenced on August 4 has seen some of the famous researchers putting out their research works. While all the demos were impressive, one that stood out from the rest was a research activity from Ruben Santamarta of IOActive team.
Their research has revealed that the satellite communication system or SATCOM is susceptible to cyber attack. Interestingly, the communication system is used by ships, airplanes, and military units all over the world.
It’s not as bad as it sounds.
If an attacker decides to hack a vulnerable SATCOM device, it could cause some serious damage to military an maritime operations of different countries. All the devices that are connected to GPS could be used for leaking the location of military units.
Whereas, in the case of airplanes, the attacker could disable your in-flight Wi-Fi, tweak its settings and disable in-flight satellite communications. However, there is no way in which the systems controlling the airplanes could be affected by it, which is a sign of relief.
The major problem comes with embedded systems as you cannot patch security codes to do away with the vulnerabilities. The only option to evade an attack is the complete replacement which is needless to say next to impossible and pricey. There are some approaches which could be adopted to minimize the damage and possibility of attacks.
Santamarta and IOActive are working with government agencies and vendors to alleviate the vulnerabilities, but some things cannot be ‘fixed’ easily.
Technical aspects of the vulnerabilities will be discussed in length by Santamarta’s colleague Josep Rodriguez at Defcon.