Hack-A-Sat Challenged Hackers to Break into a DoD Satellite
The U.S. Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense (DoD) sponsored the Space Security Challenge 2020. The hack-a-thon style event was structured to spark interest in space defense systems and to join cyber security professionals with satellite designers.
Over 6,00 individuals worked together as part of 2,000 teams. The finalists were narrowed down to a list of eight teams that competed in the August final round. The competition was conducted by the US Air Force and the DoD Defense Digital Service. It took place online from 7 August to 9 August 2020.
“We are excited about this year’s Hack-a-Sat Challenge at DEF CON Safe Mode,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics. “Space is an increasingly important contributor to global economies and security. Letting experts hack an orbiting satellite will teach us how to build more secure systems in the future.”
The Hack-A-Sat competition is open to all individuals, nationalities, ages, academic institutions, and business entities subject to the caveats in 5 CFR § 5.1 – Civil Service regulations. Students are eligible as well and can use Hack-a-Thon events like these to learn and gain experience.
Qualifying Event Categories included:
A qualifying round took place in May.
- Astronomy, Astrophysics, Astrometry, Astrodynamics: Orbital mechanics and other space algorithms for star tracking and navigation
- Ground Segment: Communicating with satellites with tools and protocols
- Satellite Bus: Hacking satellite applications over message buses
- Communication Systems: Messages over modems and RF
- Payload Modules: Flight Software and specialized payload devices
- Space and Things: Problem-solving in space – old and new technologies
The event was moved online this year because of the pandemic. It included a live broadcast with a launch party, competition updates, an event recap, and even closing ceremonies.
How Hackers Make Money Legally
The DoD press release for the even emphasizes that the agency does not condone hacking for malicious gain. Although many people associate hacking with illegal activities such as stealing credit card numbers or compromising corporate networks for trade secrets, there are a number of ways to make money legally as a hacker.
Corporations hire penetration testers to test their network defenses against fresh minds who have no inside information or biased opinions. Microsoft has announced a new bug bounty program so hackers can test out a new Azure platform. Google runs an ongoing bug bounty program.
In June Google added three certificates which students can complete online to launch a new and high paying career. Google Career Certificate programs include Google IT support and Google IT Automation with Python. Certifications in data analytics, user experience (UX) design, and project management will be available soon.
How to get started as an ethical hacker
If ethical hacking sounds interesting to you, there are many online courses where you can learn the skills needed to make money as a hacker. Try a cyber security bootcamp.
You should also check out our post on the highest paying cyber security careers where you can find which certifications will help you get into the job you want.