Satellites can give us access to high speed Internet in even the most remote locations, such as in the middle of the dessert, on a a boat at sea, or even the Arctic. Unfortunately, with this great convenience, comes a great liability since hackers can easily break into these feeds to use them. Now, a Spanish cyber security researcher named Leonardo Nve, is presenting proof that not only is it easy and cheap (around $75) to hack into and use these satellite connections, but that it’s also easy for hackers to gain access to private networks, intercept satellite Internet users’ requests for web pages, replace them with spoofed sites, and they can do all of this anonymously.
“What’s interesting about this is that it’s very, very easy,” says Nve. “Anyone can do it: phishers or Chinese hackers … it’s like a very big Wi-Fi network that’s easy to access.”
Nve’s research proves that anyone using satellite Internet is not as safe as they think they are. A hacker that knows how to do this can set up fake websites designed to look and act like the real thing and steal your password information or install malicious software on your computer. So far, Nve has tested this out on geosynchronous satellites aimed at Europe, Africa and South America, but he says that there is little doubt that the same tricks would work on satellites facing North America or anywhere else.
What makes these attacks possible is that these satellite’s signals are usually left unencrypted due to logistical and legal issues with scrambling the signal. Encrypting the signal would make it much harder for companies to communicate with each other, and also has to do with the satellites sending out a signal to more than one country at a time. Different countries have different laws that have to do with Internet satellites, and it has been tough making them all agree on the same laws about how this hidden layer of the satellite security should be encrypted.
Even though there is nothing the companies and have nations agreed on yet, and it would take a lot of work, something has to be done. Nve’s work shows us just how vulnerable our satellite Internet is, and that if some ill-intended hackers or enemy states would start using this against us, it could potentially cause a lot of damage to both regular civilians and government agencies using satellite Internet.