Hackers infiltrated Japan’s space agency’s internal systems this summer, but it doesn’t appear they accessed info related to the country’s launch or satellite operations, JAXA announced.
“There was a possibility of unauthorized access by exploiting the vulnerability of network equipment,” according to a JAXA spokesperson.
This is the third time that JAXA’s Earthly systems have suffered cyberattacks, with one in 2012 and one in 2016. The latter incident was part of a larger cyber campaign that officials believe originated from an espionage group under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
- Police identified the perpetrator of that attack, but Tokyo prosecutors chose not to indict him for unknown reasons.
- Japanese investigators have not yet determined the source of this year’s attack.
The attack, which took place sometime this past summer, flew under the radar until Japanese police informed JAXA this fall. The server breached included mainly personal information on employees.
What now? JAXA has shut down part of its intranet as it continues to probe into the source and extent of the attack. Japan’s government has asked the agency to implement additional security measures to prevent future attacks.
The upshot: Cyberattacks are growing more frequent and worrisome in the space domain. Russia leveraged attacks on Viasat ground infrastructure and jammed Starlink terminals in Ukraine near the beginning of its invasion, and the Pentagon has intelligence that China is working on more robust counterspace capabilities that include hijacking spacecraft.
Though the JAXA hack doesn’t seem to have revealed important operational data, it points to the importance of effectively securing space systems on the ground to prevent disruptions to national security, banking, and communications systems, among other things.