While concerns over China’s increasing space warfare capabilities have been highlighted in a recent Pentagon report, another U.S. think-tank has released a report claiming that China attempted several cyber attacks on Indian SATCOMS (satellite communications) in 2017.
These reports came from US-based China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), which provides China’s space narrative besides other things. However, the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) has denied any such claims, but indeed acknowledged the risks involving Chinese cyber attacks.
“Cyber threats are a given but it cannot be ascertained who is behind such attacks. We’ve systems in place to alert us and I don’t think we’ve ever been compromised. The Chinese may have tried and failed,” a senior scientist said to TOI.
The report also claims that numerous attacks were made from 2008 to 2018, including against Indian satellite communications in 2017. The magnitude of the attack or its results has not been clearly defined.
These new findings also inform that China’s PLA continues to develop technologies to hamper its enemies’ ability to perform reconnaissance in its areas, by conducting cyberattacks on ground systems with the intention to corrupt or highjack the systems and control these space assets.
While the report did not highlight much about the effectiveness of these attacks, one was specifically elaborated – a cyber attack over NASA’s Joint Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The attack allowed “full functional control” over the American lab, the report pointed out.
As far as the Indian facilities are concerned, ISRO’s chairman K Sivan told that India has an independent and isolated network that is not connected to the public domain like the Internet along with robust firewalls, which has kept its systems safe.
Sivan also denied any direct knowledge of such cyber attacks on Indian ground stations and said “The threat perception is always there and it’s not unique to India. We’re secure.”
The news comes at a point when the Indian and Chinese forces have been bogged down in an intense faceoff at the northern borders in Ladakh, which has seen the deaths of 20 Indian and an unspecified number of PLA troops so far.