Advancing Satellite Communications System and the Looming Threat of Cyber Crimes

16 Sep 2022

Owing to the cutting-edge services offered by top information technology (IT) firms and the potential impact they can have on the goal of global connectivity, satellite communication (SATCOM) systems have become an essential component of technological advancements. 

Additionally, the development of new production techniques and radio technology promises to lower service prices while ensuring exceptional communication latency, bandwidth availability, flexibility, and coverage range. 

Satellite communications system refers to the use of man-made satellites to establish communication linkages between various locations on Earth. In the modern world of highly complicated technological systems, satellite communications in the new space age are essential. 

Currently, around 2,000 man-made satellites circling Earth transmit and receive voice, video, and data signals in analog and digital formats to and from a single or network of locations globally. Various industries such as oil and gas, the internet of things (IoT), healthcare, government, marine, mining, logging, outdoor leisure, and other sectors benefit from satellite communications system. 

Although the exceptional worldwide connectivity made possible by various satellite types and technology has resulted in several technological advancements, these technologies are also extremely susceptible to cyber threats. Satellite security is a critical subject that requires significant attention. 

The cybersecurity methods and solutions used in SATCOM links need to be upgraded to consider the significant increases in attacker capabilities seen over the past two decades. 

Cyber Attacks on Satellite Systems

Satellites present special cybersecurity difficulties that increase their allure as targets.

These earthbound entry points provide cyber attackers with a vast array of possible openings for hacking because satellite operations are controlled by technology that is housed on Earth. The complexity of locating and stopping a cyber attack is also made more challenging by the enormous number of entry sites.

The fact that all satellite systems communicate with ground stations through long-range telemetry is one of their biggest flaws. The uplinks and downlinks are frequently transmitted using open telecom network security standards, which provide hackers with easy access to them.

Satellite-based IoT devices present more potential avenues of access for hackers. A malicious actor may be able to access any downstream systems connected to a satellite by disrupting the satellite signal, making satellite ground stations particularly vulnerable. 

It is crucial to remember that in addition to massive, military-grade satellites, small commercial satellites are also susceptible to cybercrimes. A quantum-resistant solution may also be crucial, depending on the kind of data it is transmitting.

Unfortunately, many new or smaller businesses could believe that cybersecurity is too expensive to be a top concern. Additionally, historically, cyber defense for the satellite industry has consisted of highly specialized solutions depending on the unique requirements of each satellite system.

Link between Satellite Security and Warfare 

A cyberattack or series of attacks through hacking the satellite communications system or other defense security systems targeting a nation are typically referred to as cyberwarfare. It can destroy civilian and governmental infrastructure and interfere with vital processes, causing harm to the state and possibly even causing fatalities.

In the modern world, various nation-states engage in cyber warfare by attacking other nations, although, in some instances, terrorist groups or non-state actors who support an adversarial nation may be responsible for the attacks. In recent history, there have been several reported instances of cyber warfare.

A few well-known instances of cyber warfare in recent times are mentioned as follows: 

1.    Stuxnet virus attack on Iran: In 2010, the Iranian nuclear program was attacked by the worm Stuxnet. The malware targeted data collecting and supervisory control systems and spread through infected Universal Serial Bus devices.

This attack is thought to have been started by a random employee's USB drive. The nuclear facility in Natanz was one among the industrial establishments that were impacted. The initial indications were that there was a problem with the computer system at the nuclear facility. 

When International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visited the Natanz facility, they saw that a strangely high percentage of uranium enrichment centrifuges were breaking. At the time, it was unclear what led to these errors. 

Eventually, the involved security company located numerous harmful files containing the Stuxnet worm on the Iranian computer systems. 

Iran has not provided detailed information on the attack's results, but the attack is thought to have destroyed 984 uranium-enrichment centrifuges. According to current estimates, this resulted in a 30% reduction in enrichment efficiency.

2.    Bronze soldier cyber-attack: A Soviet Union-related statue known as the Bronze Soldier was moved from Estonia's capital city of Tallinn to a military cemetery nearby in 2007. The following months saw a series of sizable cyberattacks against Estonia. Massive denial of service (DoS) attacks on Estonian banks, media outlets, and government websites to experience traffic congestion, forcing them to crash. 

3.    Cyber-attack on Ukraine: In the past, Russia has attacked Ukraine's infrastructure and data using cyberattacks. In 2022, another attempt was made to accomplish the same. According to readily available evidence, Russia started a significant cyber effort just before its invasion of Ukraine. According to certain reports, there was a sharp rise in exploits on the first day. It appears that the goal was to destabilize Ukrainian defenses and overwhelm them. 

By using phishing, denial of service attacks, and exploiting software flaws, Russia attempted to interfere with services and introduce dangerous malware onto Ukrainian networks. Eight different families of damaging software that Russia utilized in these attacks have been discovered by one business.

Most of the vital sectors were attacked, in addition to the websites of the Ukrainian government, energy and telecom companies, financial institutions, and media outlets. 

Probable Solution for Cyber Attacks through Satellite Spectrum Monitoring Systems

The demand for stable networks that are largely free of interference is increasing as wireless communications spread quickly. 

The detection and elimination of unauthorized or unlicensed interference signals can be made easier by a spectrum monitoring system. Problem signals can be recognized as they emerge in real-time by continuously monitoring the spectrum.

An effective method for identifying and locating the interference problem's cause is to look at patterns of undesired signal activity. Spectrum monitoring is employed in addition to interference detection to describe spectrum occupancy. 

Operators and government regulators are frequently interested in learning how frequently different frequency bands are used. 

The data obtained from monitoring these frequencies is necessary to optimize the spectrum for maximum utilization. Using cognitive radio techniques, the spectrum can be reused for other purposes or multiplexed with other signals.

The monitoring spectrum can also be used to make sure that laws are followed. All emergency service personnel, including the police, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and military, must have access to clear communications. Spectrum surveillance is frequently used to enforce spectral law.

Due to various surveillance and security advantages for different end users, including the military, the government, and the commercial sector, the global satellite spectrum monitoring market is expected to grow significantly. 

According to the BIS Research report, the global satellite spectrum monitoring market is estimated to reach $5.14 billion by 2031 from $2.55 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 7.24% during the forecast period 2021-2031. 


Securing data and digital assets in the age of digital technologies is just as crucial as securing borders since international rivalry is growing. Eventually, only advanced technologies can be solutions to the threats posed by them. 


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