The United Arab Emirates has allegedly discovered 2 ‘security compromising components’ supplied by the US, in military satellites provided by the French. The UAE has reportedly threatened to cancel a 3.4 billion dirhams (£570m) deal to purchase 2 military satellites from France over claims that 2 US-supplied components compromise the security of the data transmitted between the satellite and the receiving ground station.
US based Defense news reported that while the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) has not been directly named in the matter, the incident recalls concerns over the spy agency’s supposedly extensive hacking activities.
The satellite deal is a long time coming as there was competition for more than a decade to get the agreement signed. The deal involves the supply of two high-resolution Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military observation satellites, as well as a ground station and training for 20 engineers, with delivery set for 2018. Airbus Defence and Space is supplying the Astrobus-based satellite platform, with Italian-French joint venture Thales Alenia Space, providing the observation and data transmission technology.
The UAE said it exposed two US-supplied components in the technology supplied by Thales Alenia, which provided a backdoor into the data transmitted by the satellite. The discovery was reported to the deputy supreme commander’s office back in September, according to the report. The UAE has asked France to change the components and has also “consulted” with Russian and Chinese firms, according to the report’s anonymous source in the UAE, although Russias or Chinas role is unclear in the matter. “If this issue is not resolved, the UAE is willing to scrap the whole deal,” Defense News’ source said. The incident could also be a ploy to help the UAE get a better deal on the Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter, according to an unnamed Paris-based defence specialist cited by Defense News.
The hacking activities of the NSA have reportedly included intercepting PC shipments and using an array of security vulnerabilities to install backdoors in commercial networking equipment.
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