Tobias Scharnowski and Felix Buchmann (Ruhr-Universitat Bochum), Simon Woerner and Thorsten Holz (CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security)

Presenter: Tobias Scharnowski

Satellites perform critical functions of our modern digital infrastructure, such as providing communications, navigation, and earth observation services. Maintaining a satellite requires remote access, so securing that access is an essential aspect of developing and operating a satellite. While satellites have traditionally not been subjected to regular attacks, this might not hold in the future. Hence, securing satellite firmware—the software that controls the space segment of satellite missions— becomes increasingly relevant.

In this work, we perform a case study of applying recent embedded firmware analysis techniques to satellite payload data handling systems. We explore whether FUZZWARE, a state-of-the-art firmware fuzz testing system, can be used to these firmware images. During this case study, we also describe and apply the process of manually optimizing FUZZWARE configurations for firmware targets, and measure the impact of different optimizations. Finally, we identify challenging aspects of fuzz testing satellite firmware and directions for future work to optimize fuzz testing performance in a fully automated manner. As part of our case study, we identified and responsibly disclosed 6 bugs in 3 satellite firmware images.

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