[ISN] Mission-critical satellite communications wide open to malicious hacking

http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/04/mission-critical-satellite-communications-wide-open-to-malicious-hacking/ By Dan Goodin Ars Technica April 17, 2014 Mission-critical satellite communications relied on by Western militaries and international aeronautics and maritime systems are susceptible to interception, tampering, or blocking by attackers who exploit easy-to-find backdoors, software bugs, and similar high-risk vulnerabilities, a researcher warned Thursday. Ground-, sea-, and air-based satellite terminals from a broad spectrum of manufacturers—including Iridium, Cobham, Hughes, Harris, and Thuraya—can be hijacked by adversaries who send them booby-trapped SMS text messages and use other techniques, according to a 25-page white paper published by penetration testing firm IOActive. Once a malicious hacker has remotely gained control of the devices, which are used to communicate with satellites orbiting in space, the adversary can completely disrupt mission-critical satellite communications (SATCOM). Other malicious actions include reporting false emergencies or misleading geographic locations of ships, planes, or ground crews; suppressing reports of actual emergencies; or obtaining the coordinates of devices and other potentially confidential information. “If one of these affected devices can be compromised, the entire SATCOM infrastructure could be at risk,” Ruben Santamarta, IOActive’s principal security consultant, wrote. “Ships, aircraft, military personnel, emergency services, media services, and industrial facilities (oil rigs, gas pipelines, water treatment plants, wind turbines, substations, etc.) could all be impacted by these vulnerabilities.” Santamarta said that every single one of the terminals he audited contained one or more weaknesses that hackers could exploit to gain remote access. When he completed his review in December, he worked with the CERT Coordination Center to alert each manufacturer to the security holes he discovered and suggested improvements to close them. To date, Santamarta said, the only company to respond was Iridium. To his knowledge, the remainder have not yet addressed the weaknesses. He called on the manufacturers to immediately remove all publicly accessible copies of device firmware from their websites to prevent malicious hackers from reverse engineering the code and uncovering the same vulnerabilities he did. […]




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