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China suspected in attacks on Nasa satellites

29 Oct 2011

It seems that the clever hackers over in China are (allegedly) at it again. Nasa has confirmed multiple media reports that two geographical mapping satellites were compromised in 2007 and 2008.

According to the reports, outside attackers were able to access ground control facilities for the satellites, and attempted to contact the two units.

No details on the exact nature of the attacks was given, but the satellites were said to have been accessed and interfered with.

The attacks occured three to four years ago, so hopefully Nasa and the US Geological Survey, which operates the satellites, have since beefed up their defences. It will be interesting to see whether any details on the nature of the attacks will be disclosed when the official report on the incident is released next month.

This is, of course, not the first time China has been accused of carrying out a cyber attack. Persons believed to be working with the state were implicated in the infamous 2010 Operation Aurora cyber attacks, but the country has always denied any involvement with such attacks.

The satellite incident underscores a trend in the securirty space lately. A strong focus on securing PCs and servers means that embedded systems and connected devices are becoming the low-hanging fruit.

If Nasa and other agencies haven't already taken the attacks as a wake-up call, they definitely should.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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