The US is urging satellite communication providers to be on guard against potential hacking attempts after a cyber attack caused a major disruption over Viasat’s satellite network.
The FBI and the US’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency sent out the alert on Thursday, saying they were “aware of possible threats to US and international satellite communication.”
The agencies also cited “the current geopolitical situation,” an allusion to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a reason to worry. “Successful intrusions into SATCOM networks could create risk in SATCOM network providers’ customer environments,” the agencies added.
Last month, the US-based Viasat’s own satellite internet service suffered a major outage for users in Ukraine and across Europe right as Russia began to invade the country. The disruption was so bad it crippled tens of thousands of satellite modems, and created a major communications loss for Ukraine during the early stages of its war with Russia, according to Reuters.
In response, the US’s National Security Agency has reportedly teamed up with French and Ukrainian intelligence to determine whether the outage was caused by remote sabotage from Russian hackers.
Viasat didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But the company has previously said it’s working with law enforcement to investigate the incident. “The network is stabilized and we are restoring service and reactivating affected terminals as quickly as possible,” Viasat said in a statement earlier this month.
In the meantime, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have published recommendations on how satellite operators can bolster their IT defenses to prevent a hack. This includes installing monitoring over their satellite communication equipment to look for signs of “anomalous traffic,” and using multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
The agencies are also urging satellite communication providers to “significantly lower their threshold for reporting and sharing indications of malicious cyber activity” with US authorities.