It’s Surprisingly Simple to Hack a Satellite

Image: J.M. Porup
Hacker conferences are famous for using quirky, hackablebadges. DefCon’s 2015 badge was a working vinyl LP containing a spoken-word ciphertext copy of the Hacker Manifesto.


But at the Chaos Communication Camp, held in Zehdenick, Germany last week, the organizers did something different: they gave out 4500 rad1o badges. These software-defined radios are sensitive enough to intercept satellite traffic from the Iridium communications network.

During a Camp presentation entitled „Iridium Hacking: please don’t sue us,“ hackers Sec and schneider demonstrated how to eavesdrop on Iridium pager traffic using the Camp badge.

The Iridium satellite network consists of 66 active satellites in low Earth orbit. Developed by Motorola for the now-bankrupt Iridium company, the network offers voice and data communications for satellite phones, pagers, and integrated transceivers around the world. The largest user of the Iridium network is the Pentagon.