Chinese Hackers Disrupt U.S. Space Systems?

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , , , ,

Why would China use cyber to disrupt U.S. space capabilities?

Because it’s cheaper, faster, and better than physical disruptions which might generate space debris, leave more evidence, and remove plausible deniability. As you may have been told, when you don’t have declared war, covert is good and overt is bad.

That’s likely why they used cyber space to disrupt U.S. space assets four times from 2007 to 2008 according to the 2011 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (starting on page 216):

• On October 20, 2007, Landsat-7, a U.S. earth observation satellite jointly managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey, experienced 12 or more minutes of interference. This interference was only discovered following a similar event in July 2008.

• On June 20, 2008, Terra EOS [earth observation system] AM–1, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration-managed program for earth observation, experienced two or more minutes of interference. The responsible party achieved all steps required to command the satellite but did not issue commands.

• On July 23, 2008, Landsat-7 experienced 12 or more minutes of interference. The responsible party did not achieve all steps required to command the satellite.

• On October 22, 2008, Terra EOS AM–1 experienced nine or more minutes of interference. The responsible party achieved all steps required to command the satellite but did not issue commands.

However, these charges against China are not airtight (or vacuum tested, so to speak), but rather are strongly suggestive based on Chinese past practice and doctrine.

These events are described here not on the basis of specific attribution information but rather because the techniques appear consistent with authoritative Chinese military writings.

None of this is to say China will be giving up on direct ascent anti-satellite weapons (which also have missile defense implications), space-faring proximity operations, or the old reliable jamming and frequency interference; it’s just that cyber attacks are useful additions to the Chinese war chest, with many potential disruptive benefits.

We probably need a Code of Conduct to stop China from pursuing such activities. What’s that, you say? China doesn’t want to participate in the Code of Conduct? And the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 already addresses such events in Article IX?

…If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment. A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.

So perhaps the U.S. requested consultations on the Chinese space/cyberwar?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s