Hacking Satellite Internet with Basic TV Equipment: Uncovering the Vulnerability in Broadband Communications. A recent demonstration at Black Hat 2020 by an Oxford University researcher revealed how hackers could spy on satellite internet traffic using home TV equipment worth just $300. This vulnerability in satellite broadband communications allows cyber attackers to intercept unencrypted web traffic using minimal investment. The attack method enables spying on sensitive communications from thousands of miles away, with little to no risk of detection.
The cybersecurity researcher at Oxford University demonstrated the ability to intercept real traffic from various entities, including law firms and IoT providers, across extensive geographical areas, all from a fixed location in the UK.
James Pavur, a PhD candidate in Computer Science, presented his findings at the Black Hat USA virtual conference. He had previously informed the affected parties to aid in enhancing their security measures.
Organizations that transmit information via satellite broadband connections, particularly in regions with limited fixed internet connectivity, are susceptible to having their unencrypted data sniffed. This can lead to exposure of usernames, passwords, and sensitive information about individuals or corporations.
Pavur explained that the lack of encryption in satellite broadband transmissions is due to the desire to minimize latency over long distances. He successfully intercepted data using a $90 satellite dish and a $200 digital video broadcasting satellite tuner, both available second-hand online. The process involved locating a geostationary satellite, directing the dish towards it, and using signal-recording software to capture the data. This setup allowed him to search for and analyze internet traffic using http protocols.
Pavur’s research uncovered a range of sensitive information, including details about maritime shipping, personal information of yacht captains and airplane Wi-Fi users, and confidential data from a law firm. The technique, while not easily used to target specific organizations, could be lucrative if sensitive information from large entities is intercepted.
The study highlights the need for organizations to properly configure their satellite connections with firewalls and encryption, especially as remote working increases and internal systems are exposed to external networks. Pavur’s findings serve as a reminder of the critical importance of securing satellite communications as they become more prevalent.
In conclusion, the research underscores the vulnerability of satellite internet traffic to interception and the necessity for organizations to be vigilant in securing their data transmissions.
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