|Photos via http://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/sat-hacks/|
Five years ago the world was given a frightening glimpse into what will happen unless we reduce the number of redundant satellites in space when a working telecommunications satellite built by the US firm Iridium was struck by a defunct Russian Kosmos satellite. The computer models predicted the satellites would pass with half a kilometre of each other. Instead the collision, which took place at 26,000 miles per hour, created more 1,000 extra pieces of debris larger than 10cm – which are still causing problems to this day.
Given the carnage that can be unleashed by a collision, the array of redundant satellites provides an opportunity for malignant hackers looking to cause mayhem for strategic or anarchic reasons.
Mark Roberts, who pioneered the introduction of cyber elements into the war games that the MoD runs, hypothesised a scenario in which hackers take control of one or multiple redundant satellites and use them to crash into more vital ones.
"There are lots of satellites in orbit at the moment that have been taken off line," he explained. "They still have propulsion, they have the ability to be restarted. Somebody particularly nasty could hack one of these things and then start to manoeuvre it."
While the military has long prepared for the possibility of operating without GPS, emergency services are now beginning to consider having to do their jobs in such circumstances. Chief Superintendent Jim Hammond, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, warned that a 24-hour stoppage in GPS data within London would quickly have knock-on effects on transport, City trading as well as the emergency services' ability to communicate with or locate tagged criminals.
"The art of looking at a map is being forgotten," he said. "The rush hour might go from one to three hours."
Probably best not to throw away your A to Z maps just yet.
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By Jim Geovedi and Raditya Iryandi of Bella Asia Pacific
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Real-Time Satellite Tracking
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When space is like a mousetrap:
...a single large collision could produce enough debris to create a cascading effect where future collisions increase exponentially...