US to launch Moonlighter cybersecurity satellite this week | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

If all goes well, outer space will have its first capture-the-flag hacking competition later this summer.

Later this week, a SpaceX Falcon rocket will send into Earth orbit the Moonlighter satellite. It’s the world’s first and only hacking sandbox in space, designed and launched to advance the understanding of cybersecurity for space systems.

It was built by The Aerospace Corp. in partnership with U.S. government’s Space Systems Command, the International Space Station National Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Before it unfolds its solar panels, it fits into a box-shaped space that is about a foot long and five inches on its other sides.

In the past, cybersecurity testing for space applications usually occurred in an Earth-based laboratory running various digital simulations. The Moonlight satellite has a firewall to isolate its payload of a working flight computer from its operational systems and network traffic monitoring functions. The payload can be used for various offensive and defensive cyber exercises.

“Ultimately, Moonlighter is paving the way for spacecraft and their supporting architectures to display greater resiliency,” according to Aerospace’s website. “It will provide the national security space community with the ability to test and learn in real time in orbit.”

One of its first duties is to serve as the staging area for the latest annual Hack-A-Sat 4 competition, which will have its final round happening during the DEFCON security conference in August in Las Vegas. This follows previous year’s competitions that were totally ground-based. Last year’s competition was won by a Polish team that was awarded $50,000 for its efforts in beating 800 other teams.

Moonlighter isn’t the first experimental mini-satellite to be launched into Earth orbit. Nanoracks has placed numerous experimental packages into space on previous supply missions, including some that support various student-run projects. On board this week’s launch, it will have several other experiments that are part of a Canadian CubeSat project.

“We hope Moonlighter will lead to more cyber-resilient architectures for future space missions and provide tools for professional hackers to perform cyber exercises and test out new technologies,” said Aaron Myrick, project leader for Aerospace.

Image: The Aerospace Corp.

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