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Uncle Sam wants to see your cyber security skills…by inviting you to hack a satellite!

US military and intelligence communities are increasingly worried about conflict in space. So they’ve come up with a program called “Hack-a Sat,” a challenge that invites US citizens to demonstrate their cyber security skills by hacking a satellite for cash prizes.

The Air Force and Department of Defense collaborated with DEF CON Safe Mode, an annual hacking convention that meets in August each year. Usually an in-person event, the conference was virtual this year due to COVID-19 concerns. 

The contest is just what it sounds like: Within a set time period, competitors try to hack an actual satellite. A total of 6,000 individuals on over 2,000 teams participated in a qualification event in late May. The eight highest-scoring teams moved on to the competition in early August 2020. The finalist teams completed a series of five challenges, culminating in taking control of an active satellite to take a picture of the moon.

“Space is an increasingly important contributor to global economies and security,” according to an Air Force spokesperson. The hope is that letting experts use their cyber security skills to hack an orbiting satellite will provide information that can help build more secure systems in the future.

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Sydney Kidd, Strategist, Human Centered Design, Idea Couture

Sydney Kidd

Strategist, Human Centered Design, Idea Couture