Japan plans to develop a hack-proof satellite system

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Japan plan to develop a hack proof satellite system to protect transmissions between satellites and ground stations with a dynamic encryption of data.

Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to develop a communications system to protect satellites from cyber attacks.

The hack proof satellite system will protect transmissions between satellites and ground stations implementing a dynamic encryption of data.

“With the proposed plan, the government aims to establish a secure communications network that is unique to Japan, for domestic security purposes and to spur investment in the private-sector aerospace industry.” reported the Watertown Daily Times.

The ambitious project of a hack proof satellite system is led by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology under the jurisdiction of the ministry, it will involve government, industry and academic institutions. The goal is to propose the system for commercial purposes in five to 10 years, the communications ministry aims to have an advantage in the industry by developing a secure communications system that operates in the private sector (i.e. Companies, organizations) will be able to use at a low cost.

The final decision on the hack proof satellite system will be taken this summer, funds for its activities will be included in the budget plan for fiscal 2018.

Cyber attacks represent a serious threat to satellite communications, satellites have a crucial role in our digital society, almost every industry is benefiting from their services for this reason their security is a pillar of the cyber security strategy of governments worldwide.

Attackers are posing a growing challenge to satellite operators, more exposed are commercial satellites that lack the level of security for the military. Security researchers are warning about possible effects of a successful attack against satellite systems and are urging to building them with a security by design approach.

Satellites communicate with terrestrial base stations using radio waves, hackers can intercept with unpredictable consequences.

Hackers who can decode the encrypted data can steal information, manipulate it or take the control of the satellite.

Governments consider realistic the threat of a cyber attack launched by a nation-state actor, a criminal organization and even by a lone hacker. The principal concerns are related to the operation conducted by Chinese hackers, likely state-sponsored attackers, that in the past have already breached the security of US satellites.

hack proof satellite system

In August, the Chinese government launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which will help it establish “hack-proof” communications between space and the ground.

Alleged state-sponsored hackers interfered with the operations of two U.S. government satellites in 2007 and 2008 obtaining access through a ground station in Norway. The satellites were used for climate monitoring.

The hackers “achieved all steps required to command” the Terra AM-1 satellite, but did not control it. An attacker with command privileges could “deny or degrade as well as forges or otherwise manipulate the satellite’s transmission,” or simply damage or otherwise destroy the satellite.

The project of the Japanese Government is to install a code generator on satellites so they can dynamically encrypt data.

“The dynamic codes will be sent to the ground base station using light beams. As the encryption is dynamic, it is more difficult for hackers to decode data even if they are able to intercept transmissions.” continues the Water Town daily Times.

The code generator is a small cube (approximately 10 centimeters on each side) that could be easily installed on a micro satellite being developed by a start-up firm, which is approximately 30-40 centimeters on each side.