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The U.S. Defense Digital Service, the Department of the Air Force and Red Balloon Security Announce NyanSat, a Virtual Satellite Hacking Workshop in the Aerospace Village for DEF CON 28 Safe Mode

The U.S. Defense Digital Service, the Department of the Air Force and Red Balloon Security Announce NyanSat, a Virtual Satellite Hacking Workshop in the Aerospace Village for DEF CON 28 Safe Mode

WASHINGTON – July 8, 2020 – NyanSat, designed and developed by Red Balloon Security in partnership with the U.S. Defense Digital Service (DDS) and the Department of the Air Force, is a three-part virtual satellite hacking workshop. NyanSat kicks off the first of four virtual hacking workshops hosted by the U.S. Defense Digital Service and the Department of the Air Force taking place in the Aerospace Village at the first-ever virtual DEF CON 28 Safe Mode from Aug 6-9, 2020. These workshops are meant to be educational and the U.S. Government does not condone hacking for malicious gain.

“Through our Hack the Pentagon series and now Hack-A-Satellite, we are reframing the age-old DoD adage that in order for a thing to be secure, it must be kept a secret. In reality, the ethical hacking mindset embraces external, industry experts and allows for proactive measures for mitigating attack surfaces of a satellite system,” said Brett Goldstein, Director of the Defense Digital Service.

Participation in NyanSat will be open from July 7, 2020 to August 9, 2020 at Nyan-Sat.com. The workshop consists of three fun, non-competitive challenges: building your own satellite tracking antenna, exploiting a ground station modem, and participating in our live-streamed, internet-accessible, community ground station event. Participants will be able to listen in on satellites passing overhead and provide input on what objects to track through the NyanSat Discord Channel. Since DEF CON is now in Safe Mode due to COVID-19, this and other workshops will be conducted virtually in the Aerospace Village.

“The ultimate goal with these events is to show how accessible a lot of this technology actually is, and encourage more members of the infosec community to start researching these security issues and coming up with better ways to protect this technology from sophisticated threat actors,” said Dr. Ang Cui, CEO of Red Balloon Security.

NyanSat builds on the spy-movie-style capture-the-flag hacking challenge “No Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Hack,” run by the Department of the Air Force and Red Balloon Security at DEF CON 27. More than 20 participants exploited vulnerabilities in commercial products such as cameras, door locks, and communication systems to learn more about the perils and promises of the Internet of Things (IoT) security devices. The three-staged “attack the base” challenge piloted a new model for the Air Force to hire cybersecurity talent, by offering the winner an opportunity to work a split internship between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Red Balloon Security.

This year, the U.S. Defense Digital Service, the Department of the Air Force, and Red Balloon Security are partnering to bring this workshop to the Aerospace Village as another learning component that supports the mission of building an inclusive community of next-generation aerospace cybersecurity expertise and leaders.

For more information about the NyanSat satellite hacking workshop, visit Nyan-Sat.com; or to check out the Hack-A-Sat event, visit www.hackasat.com.

About Defense Digital Service (DDS)

The Defense Digital Service was established by the Secretary of Defense in November 2015 as a SWAT team of nerds that provides the best in modern technical knowledge designed to bolster national defense. We are primarily based in the Pentagon, but we also have satellite offices in Augusta, Georgia, and co-located at the Defense Innovation Unit in Mountain View, California. Our range of talent includes world-class software developers, designers, product managers, digital experts, and bureaucracy hackers from both the private sector and within government. Learn more at https://dds.mil/.

About Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.

About Red Balloon Security

Founded in 2011, Red Balloon Security (www.redballoonsecurity.com) is a leading cybersecurity provider and research firm for both commercial and government organizations, specializing in the protection of embedded devices across all industries. In addition to partnering with leading commercial device manufacturers, Red Balloon Security also conducts advanced embedded security research for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and other US government agencies. The company’s pioneering R&D is led by a team of world-class embedded security researchers who have led U.S. Department of Defense-funded research, ethically disclosed vulnerabilities within widely ubiquitous embedded devices and published seminal research papers in respected journals.


Defense Digital Service

Jinyoung Englund / press@dds.mil / dds.mil

Air Force Research Laboratory

Deliarae Jesaitis / deliarae.jesaitis.1@us.af.mil / Afresearchlab.com

Red Balloon Security

Michael Sias / inquiry@firm19.com / www.redballoonsecurity.com