Internet in the Remote Desert

Posted June 20th, 2007 by

While I was in the “giant kitty-litter box” some years ago, our base was 200 miles from anything. Our link to the outside world was a satellite Internet connection through a company in Dubai. We had a small 10-station computer lab with about as many VoIP phones behind a Linux firewall doing NAT.

Because everything was running on generators, and Joe the Infantryman couldn’t remember to fill the generators with fuel, our base had very unstable power. We would have an outage every day at around 2:00 in the afternoon.  The power situation and the sand caused the power supplies of the computers to die fairly quickly.

Then one day, a bad thing happened. The linux firewall lost the boot drive during a power failure and didn’t come back up. It went to the maintenance shell which, of course, requires you to log in with the root password. This is when people came and asked me to fix it.

All the firewall needed was a fsck, but I was out of luck–no password. I ripped open the case and booted off a CD but the drive wouldn’t take a fsck. I eventually ended up turning the firewall into a debian box. Using ethereal, I sniffed out a gateway and unused IP address, then I called the company who owned the equipment. We had a nice conversation about how it would take them a month to send out a tech to fix or replace the firewall, so in the mean time, I owned it.

Now the funny thing is that everything is slow when you don’t have the tools available. I had to take one of the workstations and rip out a CD drive to put one in the firewall. I had to sniff out a network connection just so I could download a bootable .iso. These are all fairly small, but they take time.

I think the whole time to get us up and running was about 12 hours. Definitely not the quickest job I’ve done. But at least our guys could call home.

Now the reason that I’m bringing this is is because I’m looking at the movies from Hack In the Box 2006 and there is one about hacking satellites: Hacking a Bird in the Sky – Hijacking VSAT Connections by Jim Geovedi and Raditya Iryandi. These guys used some of the same techniques that I did.

Similar Posts:

Posted in Army, Hack the Planet, Technical | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1.  The Guerilla CISO » Blog Archive » Pictures: Desert Computer Lab Says:

    […] You can read about my satellite adventures here. […]

  2.  satellite Internet Says:

    Wow…It sucks when you have problems out there…We had satellite internet on our base in Baghdad and it always gave us trouble…I never even knew who the provider was…

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Visitor Geolocationing Widget: