Skip to Content
Computing

Military satellites are still worryingly vulnerable to cyberattack

Photo of a military satellite
Photo of a military satellite
Photo of a military satelliteAIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND

A new report says hackers could wreak havoc by interfering with space-based communications and navigation services that NATO armies rely on.

The threats: The study, published by the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, says that military satellites face the threat of hackers using malicious code to jam battlefield communications or disrupt automated missile-defense systems. Attackers can also create fake GPS signals from satellites. Known as “spoofing,” this could be used to surreptitiously redirect everything from planes to ships and ground forces.

Security researchers have already highlighted the vulnerabilities associated with communications satellites. Hacking satellites could be a far more effective way of compromising an enemy than simply blowing them up.

Satellite dependency: During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, just over two thirds of US munitions were guided via “space-based means” says the report—up from just a tenth during the first Gulf War in 1990-’91. This “critical dependency on space” makes cyber vulnerabilities all the more concerning.

Plugging the holes: The think tank has come up with a list of steps NATO countries should take to improve satellite security. These include making sure all ground control systems are properly protected with updated software and access controls, as well as ensuring greater interoperability between different countries’ satellite so that if one group is hacked, troops can rely on other satellites for backup.

Sign up here to our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

Deep Dive

Computing

Conceptual illustration of quantum computing circuity, in multiple colors
Conceptual illustration of quantum computing circuity, in multiple colors

Quantum computing has a hype problem

Quantum computing startups are all the rage, but it’s unclear if they’ll be able to produce anything of use in the near future.

winning team for Pwn2own 2022
winning team for Pwn2own 2022

These hackers showed just how easy it is to target critical infrastructure

Two Dutch researchers have won a major hacking championship by hitting the software that runs the world’s power grids, gas pipelines, and more. It was their easiest challenge yet.

child outside a destroyed residential building in Kiev
child outside a destroyed residential building in Kiev

Russia hacked an American satellite company one hour before the Ukraine invasion

The attack on Viasat showcases cyber’s emerging role in modern warfare.

Russia is risking the creation of a “splinternet”—and it could be irreversible

If Russia disconnects from—or is booted from— the internet’s governing bodies, the internet may never be the same again for any of us.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.