Satellite communication (SATCOM) terminals are often used by military, government bodies and several industry sectors for highly critical situations. A team of researchers has now discovered a whole set of vulnerabilities in these SATCOM devices.
The discovery is alarming because SATCOMs are typically used for situations where other, regular forms of communication are unavailable. For instance, military forces often used SATCOM devices in remote areas during warfare or on some vitally important mission. The fact that these devices may contain exploitable vulnerabilities means that any communications over them can be jeopardized by the hackers.
In fact, according to the researchers who have found these vulnerabilities, hackers can exploit them to block communications and even use them to gain effective control of the SATCOM devices. Imagine a hacker gaining control of a SATCOM device and through that, manipulate the communication through the connected satellite. Once this happens, the said hacker can leverage his access to that satellite and cause widespread havoc on military missions, industrial communications and a lot more.
Researchers at IOActive have published a detailed white paper ‘A Wake-up Call for SATCOM Security.’ In the paper, it has been revealed that a number of notable SATCOM device vendors such as Cobham, Inmarsat, Harris Corporation, Iridium and Hughes manufacture devices which are vulnerable.
These vulnerable devices include the SATCOM terminals used by the U.S. military for communication as well as the ones used by the U.S. military aircraft. Among the terminals that have been found to be critically vulnerable are Harris BGAN terminals, Hughes BGAN M2M terminals, Cobham BGAN terminals, Marine VSAT and FB terminals, Cobham GMDSS terminals and the Cobham AVIATOR terminals.
The research paper is meant to alert the satellite communications industry which has long tried to ignore these vulnerabilities. Given the fact that highly critical communications of entities such as the military, the oil and gas sector, the power sector and others make use of the SATCOM devices, it is absolutely pertinent that the vendors of SATCOM platforms and devices are persuaded to take care of these vulnerabilities as soon as possible.