Several prominent astronomical observatories have recently experienced cyber attacks, leading to temporary shutdowns. The National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Laboratory (NOIRLab) had to shut down its Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, the Gemini South Telescope in Chile and other smaller telescopes on Cerro Tolol, Chile, after a cybersecurity incident on Aug. 1. NOIRLab. is working with cyber security experts to restore the affected telescopes and website, and progress has been made so far.

The exact nature and origin of the cyberattack remains unclear, and NOIRLab is taking a cautious approach in sharing information while the investigation is ongoing. The organization is committed to transparency and ensuring the security of its infrastructure, and plans to provide more details to the community when needed.

It is worth noting that these cyberattacks occurred shortly before the United States’ National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) issued a bulletin warning US space companies and research organizations about the threat of cyberattacks and espionage. Foreign actors recognize the importance of the commercial space industry to the US economy and national security, as well as the reliance on space assets for critical infrastructure. They see America’s space-related innovations and assets as both potential threats and valuable opportunities to acquire important technologies and expertise.

This is not the first time that astronomical observatories have been targeted by cyber attacks. In October 2022, hackers disrupted operations at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, and NASA has been the victim of multiple cyberattacks over the years. In 2021, NASA was hit by the SolarWinds breach, which served as a major cybersecurity wake-up call within the agency’s leadership.

By Editor

Leave a Reply