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China building cyber weapons to hijack enemy satellites, says US leak

China is constructing refined cyber weapons to “seize management” of enemy satellites, rendering them ineffective for information indicators or surveillance throughout wartime, in response to a leaked US intelligence report.

The US assesses that China’s push to develop capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites is a core a part of its objective to manage data, which Beijing considers to be a key “war-fighting area”.

The CIA-marked doc, which was issued this yr and has not been beforehand reported, was one in every of dozens allegedly shared by a 21-year-old US Air Guardsman in probably the most vital American intelligence disclosures in additional than a decade.

A cyber functionality of this nature would far exceed something Russia has deployed in Ukraine, the place digital warfare groups have taken a brute-force strategy with little impact.

These assaults, first developed within the Nineteen Eighties, try and drown out indicators between low-orbit SpaceX satellites and their on-ground terminals by broadcasting on comparable frequencies from truck-borne jamming techniques such because the Tirada-2.

China’s extra bold cyber assaults intention to imitate the indicators that enemy satellites obtain from their operators, tricking them into both being taken over utterly or to malfunction throughout essential moments in fight.

The labeled US doc stated this cyber functionality would permit China “to grab management of a satellite tv for pc, rendering it ineffective to assist communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance techniques”. The US has by no means disclosed whether or not it has comparable capabilities.

Taiwan, which has taken word of how indispensable satellite tv for pc communications have been to the Ukrainian army, is looking for to construct out communications infrastructure that may survive an assault from China.

It’s courting traders to ascertain its personal satellite tv for pc supplier, whereas experimenting with non-geostationary satellite tv for pc receivers in 700 places round Taiwan to ensure bandwidth within the occasion of struggle or disasters, the Monetary Occasions reported in January.

In an indication of how essential satellite tv for pc communications have grow to be in warfare, a Russian cyber assault succeeded in rendering hundreds of Ukrainian army routers from US-based Viasat ineffective within the hours earlier than it launched its full-scale invasion on February 24 final yr. A Ukrainian official described the assault on the time as “catastrophic”.

It additionally knocked out service to hundreds of Viasat clients in Poland, Italy and Germany, the place a number of hundred wind generators had been affected.

The Viasat hack, whereas refined, concerned breaking into the corporate’s pc techniques and sending out directions to the modems that triggered them to malfunction.

China’s objectives, in response to the leaked evaluation, are much more superior. They might search to knock out the power of satellites — which are inclined to function in interconnected clusters — to speak with one another, to relay indicators and orders to weapons techniques, or to ship again visible and intercepted digital information, in response to consultants.

US army officers have warned that China has made vital progress in creating army area expertise, together with in satellite tv for pc communications.

Normal B Probability Saltzman, commander of the US Area Drive, advised Congress final month that Beijing was aggressively pursuing counter-space capabilities in an effort to understand its “area dream” of changing into the foremost energy past the Earth’s ambiance by 2045.

“China continues to aggressively spend money on expertise meant to disrupt, degrade and destroy our area capabilities,” he stated.

Saltzman stated China’s army had deployed 347 satellites, together with 35 launched prior to now six months, aimed toward monitoring, monitoring, concentrating on and attacking US forces in any future battle.

Charlie Moore, a retired Air Drive basic who served as deputy of US cyber command, stated China was making big efforts to counter the uneven benefit that the US had within the cyber and area domains.

“China understands the prevalence that the US has within the area and cyber domains, so they’re very interested by not solely bettering their very own capabilities however in capitalising on what we consult with as a first-mover benefit in each domains,” stated Moore, now a visiting professor at Vanderbilt College in Tennessee.

“They’re engaged on all of the capabilities that they wish to have from a defensive and offensive standpoint, and from an ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] standpoint. They’re firing on all cylinders,” he stated.

The Nationwide Safety Council, the CIA and the Pentagon declined to remark. The Chinese language authorities had no instant remark.

Further reporting from Joe Leahy in Beijing