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Report States Many Phones To Soon Get Satellite Connectivity


A new partnership between satellite phone company Iridium and chip giant Qualcomm will bring satellite connectivity to premium Android smartphones later this year. It implies that handsets can communicate with passing satellites to send and receive messages even in areas with no mobile coverage.

Qualcomm chips are found in many Android-powered smartphones. Apple announced a satellite feature for the iPhone 14 in September 2022. The service is currently only available for sending and receiving basic text messages in an emergency.

Bullitt, a British smartphone maker, was the first to launch its own satellite service, beating Apple to the punch. It is also intended for emergency use and will initially be available in select areas.

Iridium was the first satellite phone system, launching its first satellite into orbit in 1997. In 2019, it completed a refresh of its 75-spacecraft network.

The satellites cover the entire globe and fly in low orbit, approximately 485 miles (780 kilometres) above the Earth, and groups of them can communicate with one another, passing data between them.

Qualcomm stated that the new feature, dubbed Snapdragon Satellite, will initially be included only in its premium chips and is unlikely to appear in low-cost devices.

However, it will ultimately be rolled out to tablets, laptops, and even vehicles, and will also become a service that is not limited to emergency communication - though there will most probably be a fee for this.

Satellite connectivity is widely regarded as the next frontier for mobile phones because it addresses the issue of "not-spots," or areas with no existing coverage. These are more common in rural or remote areas.

It has already been used to provide broadband coverage by services like Elon Musk's Starlink. Satellite broadband is faster and more reliable than cable or fiber connections but is more expensive.

But since countries such as India and China prohibit the use of satellite phones, the use of the feature will be subject to local government regulations.

Viasat Claims Delay on a "Cyber Event"


Viasat Inc., an American communications provider, claims its satellite internet services in Ukraine and Europe are being disrupted by a "cyber incident." 

Based in Carlsbad, California, Viasat offers high-speed satellite broadband access and secure networking systems to military and commercial customers throughout the United States and around the world. The problem stems from Viasat's purchase of the Ka-SAT satellite from the satellite's launcher and former owner, Eutelsat, in April 2021. 

"While we attempt to restore service to affected consumers, we're also looking into and evaluating our European network and systems to figure out what's causing the problem. We're also putting further network safeguards in place to avoid any further consequences." authorities stated. 

According to the firm, the interruption began on February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, and it contacted "law enforcement and government partners," adding it had "no indication of consumer data is implicated." In a statement to PaxEx.Aero, another ISP, Germany-based EUSANET, the company said it was suffering problems as well. 

An insider told British news channel Sky News that the interruptions were triggered by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The number of Viasat users in Ukraine is unknown, and the firm has declined to specify how many are affected. Subsequently, Viasat's stock was up 3.5 percent in lunchtime trade Monday, trading at around $45. 

To optimize service area, Viasat operates huge satellites in geosynchronous orbit, which means people are stationary at a location roughly 35,000 kilometers from Earth.

This is the conventional method of providing broadband access from space, but a number of businesses, including SpaceX's Starlink, are investing in constructing networks in low-Earth orbit which use hundreds or thousands of satellites.

A New Set of Cybersecurity Principles Issued By the White House

A new set of cybersecurity principles were recently issued by the White House to ensure its commercial and critical infrastructure investments in space.

The short document states: “The United States considers unfettered freedom to operate in space vital to advancing the security, economic prosperity, and scientific knowledge of the Nation.” 

As the US focuses on this unfettered access critical to its future, it additionally increased the utilization of digital services and technologies delivered by satellites. The move was brought about as the focus of the White House goes beyond military operations in space.

The nation is worried about the effect of cybersecurity attacks against a scope of services delivered by satellite, for example, the global positioning systems. GPS is particularly significant, to military activities as well as regular citizen use.

The Space Policy Directive 5 details a list of suggested best practices for making sure that the information systems, netwoRk “radio-frequency-dependent wireless communication channels” that together power US space systems.

“These systems, networks, and channels can be vulnerable to malicious activities that can deny, degrade or disrupt space operations, or even destroy satellites,” the document stated.

“Examples of malicious cyber-activities harmful to space operations include spoofing sensor data; corrupting sensor systems; jamming or sending unauthorized commands for guidance and control; injecting malicious code; and conducting denial-of-service attacks.”

Among the suggested best practice principles was the utilization of “risk-based, cyber-security-informed engineering” to create and operate space systems, with persistent monitoring for vindictive action and of system configurations. 

 Other elements that will help ensure a good baseline of cybersecurity were mentioned as:
1. Protection against unauthorized access to space vehicle functions 

2. Physical protection of command

3. Control and telemetry receiver systems

4. Measures to counter communications jamming and spoofing

5. Management of supply chain risks and improved collaboration between space system owners. 

The document likewise included that such attacks could bring about the loss of mission data, damage to space systems, and loss of control over space vehicles such as satellites, space stations, and launch vehicles, which could lead to collisions that generate dangerous orbital debris.

Threats to U.S. Space Systems Multiply Rapidly; a Novel Approach Emerges For Protection

The increasing vulnerability of U.S. space systems lately has incited its rivals to begin with their development of mechanisms for disabling space assets as a method of 'hobbling the joint force' and subverting the economic performance of the nation.

The purpose of this progression is the dependence of America's military forces which are spread across the world for communications, navigation, reconnaissance, and weather forecasts and that the most critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. economy depend on space frameworks for fundamental administrations.

As of late certain reports from intelligence agencies indicate that enemies have now started focusing not only on satellites, but also on the ground stations that control them, the links between the satellites and the stations, and the ability of the users to access certain services, like the Global Positioning System.

The reports depict various ways in which the U.S. space capabilities may be debased, from electronic jamming of signs to high-power lasers that visually impair sensors to physical attacks on control centers.

It is clearly evident that the dangers to the U.S. space system are increasing consistently, and cyber-attacks offer the broadest exhibit of alternatives to the greatest grouping of troublemakers. 

Against that background, just the previous month a national-security contractor ManTech, came up with a 'novel approach' to deal with protecting military, intelligent, and commercial space assets against cyber-attacks.

Dubbed as Space Range, and it permits users to 'replicate' space networks in a controlled environment with the goal that their vulnerability to cyber aggression can be evaluated. The $2 billion company headquartered in Northern Virginia, has been doing this kind of work for quite a while. It had created the defense department's first cyber test range in 2009, and three years ago even launched an Advanced Cyber Range Environment.

Space Range, which began on May 4, is unique in the sense that it permits profoundly talented cyber experts to attacks exact replicas of satellites, ground stations, uplinks/downlinks, and so forth in a hyper-realistic environment that is air-gapped from the outside world.

As a company press release puts it that gives players the “ability to find hidden vulnerabilities, misconfigurations and software bugs on precise network replications.” The entire framework depends on a software-defined infrastructure model that can be reconfigured in hours as opposed to weeks.

That good news when time and money of the users is concerned, however, the most significant feature of Space Range is that it offers engineers and operators a protected and legitimate setting where to practically investigate the 'hardening' of their overhead resources against cyber-attack.

Nevertheless, with space quickly turning into a field of extraordinary competition, there isn't a lot of uncertainty that the Pentagon's recently introduced Space Force will be 'robustly funded' going ahead.

ManTech's Space Range will in no time, probably transform into a significant tool in assisting the government and industry to figure out where training and hardening outlays should be concentrated.

TV Equipment Used To Eavesdrop On Sensitive Satellite Communications

With just £270 ($300) of home television equipment an Oxford University-based security researcher caught terabytes of real-world satellite traffic including sensitive information from “some of the world’s largest organizations.”

The news comes as the number of satellites in the orbit is said to have an increment from around 2,000 today to more than 15,000 by 2030. James Pavur, a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil student at Oxford will detail the attack in a session at the Black Hat security conference toward the beginning of August.

Alongside it Pavur will demonstrate that, "under the right conditions" attackers can easily hijack active meetings by means of the satellite link, a session overview revealed.

While full details of the attack won't be uncovered until the Black Hat conference, a 2019 conference paper published by Pavur gives a 'sneak peek' into a small part of the challenges of security in the satellite communications space.

It seems to all come down into the absence of encryption-in-transit for satellite-based broadband communications.

The May 2019 paper (“Secrets in the Sky: On Privacy and Infrastructure Security in DVB-S Satellite Broadband“) notes: “Satellite transmissions cover vast distances and are subject to speed-of-light latency effects and packet loss which can impair the function of encryption schemes designed for high-reliability terrestrial environments (e.g. by requiring re-transmission of corrupted key materials). Moreover, satellites themselves are limited in terms of computing capabilities, and any on-board cryptographic operation risks trading off with other mission functionality.”

It additionally uncovers how a small portion of the eavesdropping in was led utilizing a “75 cm, flat-panel satellite receiver dish and a TBS-6983 DVB-S receiver….configured to receive Ku-band transmissions between 10,700 MHz and 12,750 MHz”

Pavur grabbed sensitive communications using tools costing less than $300, including a Selfsat H30D Satellite Dish, a TBS 6983 Satellite PCI-E, and a three-meter coaxial cable.

Pavur even focuses on the Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite (DVB-S) and DVB-S rendition 2 protocols, which transmit information in MPEG-TS format. The paper includes: "A collection of Python utilities… was used to analyze each of these transponders for signs of DVB-based internet transmissions.”

The 2018 experiment takes note of that through manual review of the intercepted traffic, the security researchers distinguished "[traffic] flows associated with electrical power generation facilities”

“Vulnerable systems administration pages and FTP servers were publicly routable from the open internet. This means that an attacker could sniff a session token from a satellite connection, open a web browser, and log in to the plant’s control panel…”

Alongside further details on the attack, Pavur will at Black Hat present an “open-source tool which individual customers can use to encrypt their traffic without requiring ISP involvement.”