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Hackers Find 3 Weakspots in US Air Force Satellite, Win $50K Prize | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


An Artist’s impression of a CubeSat in space
NASA JPL

  • For the first time, a competition saw hackers break into a US Air Force satellite in orbit.
  • It was part of an annual event held to stress-test the satellites against real security threats.
  • This winners, the Italian team mHACKeroni, took home $50,000.

Hackers managed to break into a US Air Force satellite in orbit, and took home prizes of up to $50,000 for exposing the vulnerabilities.

Italian team mHACKeroni were the winners of the US Space Force annual “Hack-A-Sat” competition, which took place at the hacker international conference DEF CON in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday.

The event is designed to figure out gaps in US cyber defenses before they can be exploited by rival states like Russia and China.

For the first time, the hackers were asked to attack a real satellite in space — the US Air Force Moonlighter, which was deployed specifically for the event. 

Five teams were picked out of more than 700 applicants to strategically hack into the satellite which is whizzing around Earth at 5 miles per second, Politico reported.

The participants aimed to break in and build a data link to the satellite while keeping competing teams out.

The Italian team beat last year’s winners, Poland-based “Poland Can Into Space.” They came second and won $30,000, while the UK-US joint team jmp fs:[rcx] took $20,000 home. 

Italian team mHACKeroni won the US Air Force’s fourth annual Hack-A-Sat competition by hacking into a satellite in space.
Sarah McNulty, Space Systems Command

While the event had a decidedly fun-and-games tone to it, it reflects a serious and growing security threat.

Satellite hacking can cause real geopolitics problems. A notable example of this happened in 2022, when Russia targeted American satellite company Viasat just hours before deploying its troops in Ukraine.

The attack resulted in a significant loss of communication in the first days of the invasion, Insider previously reported. 

Classified documents leaked this spring by an Air guardsman and seen by the Financial Times also revealed China is developing technology to  “seize control” and “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites as part of a key “war-fighting domain.”

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