Monday, April 20, 2009

What do you get when you combine a ham radio transmitter, a frequency doubler and a varactor diode?

10300284_T You get a “Bolinha”, a free world-wide satellite phone (courtesy of the US Department of Defense and the US tax payer!).

This article from “The Great Brazillian Sat-Hack Crackdown”, has an interesting story of how hobbyists have been able to modify their HAM radio equipment so that they could jump on to the communication bands of US military satellites (FLTSATCOM) and then use it for their personal communications! (Santa Claus is coming!) And apparently the practice is so widespread that even a college professor has been arrested and 12 year old kids know how to hack their HAM radios in order to communicate via the Bolinhas.Ch1a

The hackers end up using precious communications bandwidth to which they don't have any legal access. But at least, because all important communications within the US DOD is encrypted, others cannot eavesdrop on those conversations (Or at least that is what we hope).

It is an interesting read. And also brings up the all important point of: are the hackers doing anything wrong? After all they are only using an open communications channel on a satellite. But as the article points out, illegal access to a military com channel, can have serious implications on the welfare of a unit on the battlefield. And just because a door is open, it doesn't mean you have the right to walk on in, into the house (and in this case, eat something right out of the refrigerator in that house!).

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