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Cyber Diner Podcast - Episode 1

Penetration Testing and Space Vulnerabilities w/ Eric Escobar

One of the most effective methods of improving cybersecurity is through penetration testing. Eric Escobar, principal consultant at SecureWorks and three-time Capture-the-Flag champion at DEF CON, describes his journey into cybersecurity, the ins and outs of penetration testing, and the implications of space technology growth for security in space-based systems.

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Erics Journey into the world of Hacking

  • Attended Cal Poly, SLO for Civil Engineering
  • First learned computer skills in engineering classes and practiced them with his roommate in the dorms
  • Successfully hacked into the WiFi at his friend’s Dad’s work in order to play Halo, his friend’s Dad, a security lead in Silicon Valley, decided to give him a shot.


Eric’s experience with Pen Testing

  • Spends roughly equal time hacking and reporting bugs on the phone and via email, interfacing with clients and recommending solutions for CVEs
  • Works primarily with large, enterprise companies, universities, etc.
  • Has hacked in almost every single industry you can think of


Security in Space

  • Costs run high for even the smallest satellite launches, and security has to be accounted on beforehand.
  • Sometimes engineers have to make trade offs between stability and security.
  • Timelines on developing space craft are years long, and when exploits are found they can be very costly.
  • As hardware becomes cheaper, a whole ecosystem of space activity will start to open up.
  • Facing faster launch times, satellite-builders have to make sure the supply chain is secure and the ground networks are secure.
  • It’s a miracle that anything works at all!


Space-based Internet

  • Starlink is making 60 satellite-launches look routine, and numbers will increase in space.
  • Attack surface increases with more satellites in space, and now hackers have easier access to space transmissions.

Vulnerabilities In Space Systems

  • Encryption can be expensive, and the energy and cost is often times spent elsewhere, so it is not uncommon for satellite communications to be left unencrypted
  • A thesis states that cosmic particles have potential to flip bits in satellite memory. At scale, there is a theoretical possibility to relay an exploit with a domain that would only be accessible if the right bit were flipped by a cosmic event.


Eric’s Recommendation

  • Throw a hacker on your team who can apply the mindset of “how would I break this?” from the beginning of development.


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