A still unknown group of hackers broke into the system of two rather unusual machines, telescopes, forcing them to shut down completely. It is also unclear what the nature of the attack is.
If you are asked to imagine a hacker (not to mention the dark, hooded figure bent over a computer), what are you thinking? To someone who steals cryptocurrency to make money. Or who recovers personal data by attacking a specific company. And on a larger scale, we remember cyberattacks on government institutions.
The hack that took place on August 1st struggles to fit into either of these categories. Surely the last if you have to choose. Hackers launched attacks against two astronomical observatories among the most sophisticated in the world. The teams in charge were have to stop them temporarily. The two affected telescopes are Gemini North in Hawaii and Gemeni South in Chile. They operated by the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research LaboratoryOr NOIRLab.
Cyberattack targets astronomical observatories and forces their complete shutdown
Following the hackers’ intrusion, smaller telescopes located on the Cerro Tololo in Chile also had to be disconnected. Even the gemini.edu website has been offline for almost a month. Despite research, it is still unclear who is behind the attack, or even what country it originated from. As the investigation is still ongoing, NOIRLab does not provide any details on the nature of piracy. It also does not say whether data was stolen or not.
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It should be noted that the cyberattack took place a few days before the publication of a document by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) American. He warns space companies against hacking and espionage: “[Les entités de renseignement étrangères] see U.S. innovation and space assets as potential threats as well as valuable opportunities to acquire vital technologies and expertise.” At the time of publishing this article, the telescopes attacked are still out of service.