What could a supervillain do with a satellite?

Answers to things like: can you ‘acquire’ a satellite through hacking and other questions a supervillain might ask.

Welcome to this intro course to the life of a supervillain. We’re going to be covering the basics, like deciding on names, picking out capes, recruitment of henchmen and planning your first nefarious scheme. Speaking of which, we’ll start with satellites, which have proven popular with many past villains.

Learning from the past

To start with the good news: there have been several successful breaches of satellites in recent years from which we candraw inspiration. ‘Someone’ in China managed to take control of a NASA satellite back in 2007 and the British government’s vehement denial of something similar happening to their satellites speaks volumes. The nice people at Chatham House actually recently released a 46-page report full of delightful ways you could misuse satellites that includes spamming them, messing with communications and so forth.

Most of the ways centre on the information you can get from hacking satellites – or even listening in on the traffic that’s being beamed to and from them. As reported in The Hacker News, a group referred to as Turla APT is especially adept at using satellite internet connections to “Siphon sensitive data from government, military, diplomatic, research and educational organisations in the United States and Europe.”

Satellite hiding in a few, short steps

Right, where were we? Oh yes, Turla! Turla not only managed to use the satellites to syphon information. They also used a clever strategy to hide their command centres. That might sound like a minor thing, but, as you’ll learn, keeping a base of operations, let alone a lair, a secret seems like one of the most difficult things for us villains. That and hiring henchmen with good aim.

Firstly, you need to rent a house, or set up some sort of base, in the area where the satellite in question provides coverage. Then you’re going to need a satellite dish to intercept the traffic, as well as a landline internet connection.

Then you need some fall guys. So find a viable target and infect their computer with malware. Next, configure the domain names for your command-and-control (C&C) servers to point to that IP address. In essence, you’re going to have the satellite send data to both you and the malware-infected computer, but in such a way that it only shows up on your computer. This will hide your actual location.

Not for everyone

Now this approach is not for everyone. Not just because you may have a few issues with using technology, like Turner D. Century, or some very special ideals, like Flag-Smasher.

As described above, this is about gaining information. So if you’re more Rhino than Riddler, then this might not be the way to go.

This is time for the bad news: the basic problem here is that the ‘good’ guys have found ways of severely limiting our abilities to outright take over satellites. Even the great report from Chatham House is mostly talking about hypotheticals. And if the Chinese are to believed, even listening in on communications is about to become nigh-on impossible.

Laser weapons on satellites are a popular option, and a way to go could be launching your own satellite weapon. However, you’re in the early stages of your careers and probably don’t have access to the necessary resources. Some of you don’t even have a proper nemesis yet. And that’s before thinking of the fact that space lasers have proved largely disappointing so far.

Another opportunity would be holding satellites for ransom and threatening to blow them up. That could involve missiles, but they tend to come with firing sequences that are always one second too long. Instead, I’d recommend finding out if the stories of Chinese superweapons capable of knocking satellites out of the skies are true.

Now, don’t be discouraged. As you all know, we villains don’t often share our plans, so there may be many ingenious ways to take over satellites that we just haven’t heard of.


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