Broker Check

The Threat to Satellite Communications

September 01, 2020

According to Cyber Security Intelligence, there are over 2,000 orbiting satellites at present, and hundreds of geostationary satellites. Telecommunications companies are planning dozens of new satellite launches. Amazon plans to create its own Internet system with over 3,000 satellites. There could be over 50,000 more satellites in orbit within a decade.

Satellites today perform many services - technology, communications, science, weather, GPS, electric grids. However, risks come with the benefits. Too many satellites could make earth based astronomy almost impossible, and disrupt radio frequencies used for deep space observation.

More seriously, satellites could be compromised by cyber criminals. Researchers at Oxford University have found that satellite Internet communications are susceptible to eavesdropping. and signal interception. Attackers can purchase equipment to do this for $300 or less, with cheap versions costing as little as $50. Satellites do not appear to regularly use encryption, making it easy for anyone to listen in.

It will take international cooperation to limit the impact criminals could have on satellites. The question is whether nations have the political will.