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Thales seizes control of satellite in cyber-security exercise

OPS-SAT is a ESA nanosatellite designed to test and validate new mission control capabilities. (European Space Agency)

Thales was able to gain access to and directly control the European Space Agency's (ESA's) OPS-SAT nanosatellite during the Cysat cyber-security exercise held in Paris from 26 to 27 April.

According to the company, participants used a variety of ethical hacking techniques to take control of the system used to manage the payload's global positioning system, altitude control system, and camera.

The four-member team infiltrated OPS-SAT by using “standard access rights” to gain control of its application environment. The group was then able to exploit several vulnerabilities to introduce malicious code into its systems.

This allowed the team to compromise the satellite data sent back to Earth, which included modifying images captured by the system's camera. The team was also able to conceal their activities to avoid detection by the ESA.

Cysat is a European event dedicated to cyber security for the space industry.

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