Cyber ​​security: ESA hacks satellites in orbit

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Anyone who wants to and has a particularly good idea could be invited to hack a special satellite belonging to the European Space Agency ESA in April. She is now asking for suggestions for the hacking competition. After a first test run with an exact copy of the satellite, three finalists will then be selected, who will be able to try out the real satellite in orbit at the beginning of April. They each have six minutes to hack it and thereby reveal vulnerabilities that ESA is unaware of. The space agency has now announced this and is asking for applications. They will be accepted until February 18th.

Inadequate cybersecurity harms us all, founds the ESA the competition “Hack-Cysat”. The exploitation of security gaps causes immense damage and, above all, threatens critical infrastructure. This includes satellites such as those operated by ESA. One of them is called OPS-SAT and measures 30 centimeters. It was launched in 2019 and has significantly more powerful mission control systems on board than classic satellites. Its only task is to be available for tests that, for obvious reasons, cannot be carried out on satellites in use. Those responsible can try out new procedures, techniques or systems on it without jeopardizing current missions. And now he’s about to be hacked.

suggestions how the processor core or the payload can be taken on board remotely should now be submitted, it says on the project page. It is beneficial if aerospace engineers “freak out” reading the idea, or append suggestions on how to defend against the attack. A good story about the attack is also rated positively. The six best will be selected at the end of February. The teams then get access to an exact copy of the OPS-SAT and are allowed to try to hack it. After that, the top three teams will be selected to try their hand at the real satellite in orbit live at the Cysat conference in Paris (April 6-7). They get special access for this. The prize is the paid trip to Paris and “some surprises”.

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