China gained control of two US satellites

Two US satellites were hacked by the Chinese, according to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Bloomberg reports that no-one talked about the hack at the time, which took place in 2007 and 2008, but the information is about to be made public in the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report.

It turns out that the two satellites, Landsat-7 and Terra AM-1, were interfered with four times and the hackers were in command of the satellites for two to 12 minutes each time.

According to the report, the control that the hackers had over the two satellites permitted them to damage or destroy them, or to block or falsify their transmission. Both of the satellites are used only for observing the Earth’s climate and terrain, and the hackers never misused their control.

But the hack put the fear of god into the US military establishment. If the hackers could manage to take over a benign satellite then they could, in theory, control satellites with more sensitive functions such as those used by the U.S. military and the various intelligence agencies for reconnaissance and communication.

The report does not indicate whether the hackers behind the intrusions were state-sponsored or not. The fact that the report comes out from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission and that the targets seem to be consistent with Chinese military plans in case of open war gives the game away a bit.

The Chinese military strategy involves disabling the enemy’s space systems and the ground infrastructure through which they are controlled as part of any assault.

The satellites are controlled from the Svalbard Satellite Station in Norway which often uses the internet to transfer and access files. It seems that the hackers got into the station’s system through its internet connection.

We are waiting for the angry indignant denial from China, but you can probably write your own.