Thales seizes control of European Space Agency Satellite in a cybersecurity exercise

The demonstration has been described as the world’s first ethical satellite hacking exercise.

 Electrical Device, Solar Panels, Astronomy, Outer Space, Satellite

Experts from French defence giant Thales demonstrated an ethical satellite hacking exercise on European Space Agency (ESA)’s OPS-SA, a nanosatellite. The aim of this demonstrative hack was to display what the consequences of a real-world cyberattack could have on civilian systems in space and also to address the risks involved in live testing mission control systems.

‘This unprecedented exercise was a chance to raise awareness of potential flaws and vulnerabilities … [and] to improve the cyber resilience of satellites and space programmes in general, including both ground segments and orbital systems,’ said Pierre-Yves Jolivet, the vice president of cyber solutions at Thales.

Experts from Thales, along with the ESA, will provide an in-depth explanation of the attack at the CYSAT conference in Paris.

This hacking exercise was planned prior to the leak of the US intelligence classified documents, which includes documents warning of China’s growing focus on developing capabilities to seize control of enemy satellites. The documents mention that China plans to surpass traditional forms of communications jamming that block signals between satellites and terrestrial terminals and focus on developing technologies capable that include mimicking the operator signals to seize control of a satellite and making it ineffective in supporting any form of communications, weapons, intelligence or surveillance systems.

In light of the leaked documents, this demonstration has received attention from experts.