Document Type




A significant disruption to satellite services would have damaging effects on society. However, news headlines of satellites being hacked, such as those stemming from the 2011 Report to Congress of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, degrade discussion in international relations by oversimplifying the topic. Limiting the information given might be due to security concerns or a lack of attention span on the part of its intended audience; however oversimplification gives the impression that an individual hacker sitting at their computer can access satellites with a few simple keystrokes. Conversely, it might lead others to dismiss the topic as fiction when there is a credible threat that needs to be addressed. This paper will investigate key questions relevant to the topic of satellite hacking: What is the structure of satellite systems? What does it mean to ‘hack’ a satellite? And why are these systems vulnerable to hacking?