Ships Can Be Hacked By Exploiting VSAT Communication System

Satellite antenna systems are not spared from vulnerabilities and are quite prone to cyber-attacks, which makes devices and machinery from which these systems are connected to potential targets of hackers. Until now we believed that ships sailing far away in the ocean are safe from the reach of cyber-criminals but latest research proves that even ships are not spared.

According to security researcher using the Twitter ID, “x0rz” Shipboard systems are quite vulnerable to hack attacks because of the faulty configuration of specific satellite antenna systems installed on them. While having a conversation with The Next Web, x0rz stated that minor glitches in the configuration could help cyber-criminals in fulfilling their nefarious motives.

The researcher used Shodan search engine to trace the exact location of ships having “Very Small Aperture Terminal satellite communications systems” installed and then used default login information available on the internet for accessing those systems. He claimed that if an attacker gains access to VSAT system, a variety of tasks can be performed.

Once the system is infiltrated, the attacker can easily view call logs on VSAT phone, upload firmware and modify system settings. Moreover, the VSAT system can be connected to other devices onboard and used as a gateway for gaining access to any vessel’s broader onboard network. This would allow a hacker to cause considerable damage.

Interestingly, VSAT systems are used in certain aircraft too. This means, not only ships but aircraft are also vulnerable to hack attacks. It must be noted that VSAT communication systems are quite common in large shipping vessels and aircraft, military and passenger planes and private jets.

These systems let those onboard the facility of sending/receiving messages and also access the internet while in transit. Apparently, if not all then some of these systems are not much secure and can allow any attacker to disrupt communications.

As per x0rz, it is possible to access VSAT systems from the public internet, which means that these can be tracked via Shodan and accessed through default login credentials. Attackers can figure out the location of targeted ships with utmost precision using the VSAT system’s IP address and language.

X0rz has so far identified British firm Cobham manufactures some VSAT systems that are vulnerable and all of these systems.