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NASA Mars Software Space Science

Could You Hack Into Mars Curiosity Rover? 452

MrSeb writes "NASA's Curiosity rover has now been on the surface of Mars for just over a week. It hasn't moved an inch after landing, instead focusing on orienting itself (and NASA's scientists) by taking instrument readings and snapping images of its surroundings. The first beautiful full-color images of Gale Crater are starting to trickle in, and NASA has already picked out some interesting rock formations that it will investigate further in the next few days. Over the weekend and continuing throughout today, however, Curiosity is attempting something very risky indeed: A firmware upgrade. This got me thinking: If NASA can transmit new software to a Mars rover that's hundreds of millions of miles away... why can't a hacker do the same thing? In short, there's no reason a hacker couldn't take control of Curiosity, or lock NASA out. All you would need is your own massive 230-foot dish antenna and a 400-kilowatt transmitter — or, perhaps more realistically, you could hack into NASA's computer systems, which is exactly what Chinese hackers did 13 times in 2011."
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Could You Hack Into Mars Curiosity Rover?

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  • Re:dd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @05:10PM (#40977617)

    This "firmware upgrade" really isn't that big of a deal. Obviously NASA doesn't want to screw it up but they do have experience in the past. One of the first upgrades they did was in the early 90s when they reprogrammed the Voyager 2 spacecraft to take photos of poorly-lit Uranus.

    That craft had never been designed to last beyond Saturn, so they had to do some new ideas like leaving the camera shutter open for several minutes AND rotating the spacecraft at the same time to avoid image blur. They also upgraded the resolution & introduced image compression so they could store all the photos during the rapid flyby.

    Plus wait a full workday (9 hours) to get a response from Voyager that said "success" or "fail" on the updates. This rover upgrade is likely easy in comparson.

  • by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @06:34PM (#40978439) Homepage

    I know you think you're being all geeky and clever, but seriously. If you aspire to second-guess every engineering decision that NASA makes, perhaps you should apply for a management position there.

    I think NASA has already has enough issues [] with managers second-guessing the engineers.

  • by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:35PM (#40978991) Homepage

    Heh, which way do I point the antenna again?

    bingo. security through obscurity. They might even have the tx/rx totally unencrypted with no credential challenge. Because you won't even know where or when to point your massively huge antenna you don't have.

  • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @11:29PM (#40980837) Journal

    A buddy of mine had a type of shoe he loved to wear. He would wear them all the way out before getting another pair. He had actually worn a hole through the bottom of one pair and was on his way to the mall and decided to stop at the Winnipeg library first; which was on his way and right across the street from the mall. He'd been up all night gambling at bacgammon (that was his job, no shit... that and poker and various Chinese games like pi gaou, sap sam jung, etc... he was a gambler). He picked up a book he wanted to look at, and sat down on a couch and kicked off his shoes for a bit. He knew he was at risk of having an inadvertant nap but figured, what the hell, my shoes are beat to shit, who's going to steal them? He ended up nodding off while reading, woke up and found someone had stolen his beat up to shit shoes with the hole in one. I happened to run into just after it happened and just looked and said, why the fuck are you walking around downtown in your socks? Then he told me the story.

    Bottom line: People will steal anything. Even beat up shoes with a hole in them. If someone decides to try to hack curioslity, it doesn't have to be for money. In fact that kind of person might be the more dangerous. They're the ones who will come completely out of left field.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall