Setting: In the future universe, with technologies based on real science that we know that theoretically can be implemented (though not feasible with today's technologies) and sub-light travel, a high security planet is under 24/7 lock down and constant monitoring from ground and orbit. The planet functions as a storage location for highly valuable, dangerous, or confidential assets, and they range from lethal pathogen, artifacts, or even digital data.

Problem: Since there are pirates, corrupt officials or other parties interested in some of the objects being stored there, security must be top notch. Nothing is allowed to illegally come in or out. All physical / digital traffic must come through official passage, with state-of-the-art scanning technologies (metal, radiation, biological detector, etc.), interrogation techniques, and all sorts of methods you can think of, which is impossible to outwit. Therefore, the best bet to smuggle things is via space ship.

Prevention Methods:

  1. Planet location. Planet is located near a highly radioactive star, which would cripple most electronic devices and definitely scramble any electromagnetic signals. Furthermore, the planet itself has constant dust storm, making optical communication impossible. Digital asset smuggling is outright impossible to do, and also coordination between on ground agent & space ship in orbit. Lastly, the atmosphere is lethal enough that no one can survive in a long period even with a fully armored space suit.
  2. Secured construction. All blueprints for any structure and station on the planet is designed on site, and materials are transported by launching them as asteroids from nearby star system in the most basic form (e.g. bauxite). Tools, equipments, and staff are hauled in one way, one time transportation in a huge ship. When finished, staff are put to sleep and transported to unknown location, which then their memories are completely wiped and under sort of witness protection for the entire life. No records are made.
  3. Kill first ask later. Observation stations on ground and in orbit constantly monitor all EM frequencies, and compare their view with recorded star map / surface map for any objects, even stealth ones. Any object, no matter what it is, will be immediately destroyed when it's within a certain range. There is no centralized hub for controlling them, all stations are autonomous with P2P communication via laser and wire in orbital elevator for any infiltration alert or error checking. There's even automatic repair system for the least human interaction as possible, and all scraps are recycled and necessary additional materials are mined & produced on site.
  4. Single transportation method. Even though there are many docking place for ships, there is only a single path for moving between surface and orbit, and that is orbital elevator. No ship is allowed between the surface and orbital station. The only thing allowed to fly in the planet's atmosphere is autonomous repair drones, which fly in low altitude and constricted to each sector of the planet's surface.
  5. No human staff. There is no human allowed on the surface at all times. Even all surface structures are designed without any life support or consideration of any human entering. All surface transportation between storage building and orbital elevator is done using robots. Only a handful of human is staffed on the orbit station, and their task is just monitoring and reporting.
  6. Triple encrypted passage key. All ships, personnel, and equipment must have at least 2 years of usage history, and then registered and approved by 3 different high ranking officials, with their own encryption key that change weekly. Then, that key is further encrypted using a tool that is synchronized with a number generator located on the surface of the storage planet. The encryption protocols used throughout the entire process is done by AI, so no data is ever read by human.

Question: With all of these prevention methods in place, will this planet be 100% impenetrable? Or, is there a single weakness that can be exploited?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ "Digital asset smuggling is outright impossible to do" As a software developer, I call bullshit. $\endgroup$
    – Euphoric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ Does it have to be a planet? I think you could do just as well with space station floating in interstellar vacuum. I don't think there is enough "highly confidential" material to need whole planet. $\endgroup$
    – Euphoric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 6:02
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You really should wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. WB isn’t entirely like other SEs — we want to showcase a variety of creative answers, not just the first one who has a workable idea. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ For exactly what purpose is this planet? This is very important question as the purpose of a quarantine is not allowing something out rather than complete lockdown - no one going in or out - of a planet. Quarantine is usually done to stop disease from spreading. Lockdown is done to keep a place as prison. $\endgroup$
    – Vylix
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 16:24

6 Answers 6


The defense system will self-destruct.

  • You talk about a "radioactive star." Well, all stars emit radiation, in this case I expect that it emits a lot of it. The dust storm also limits detection.
  • The repair systems are moving among the decentralized kill sats.
  • In this environment, you want to have autonomous kill sats which fire on any anomalous data reading. The environment will degrade sensors and create many false positives.

But the defense system is excessive. With realistic technology, any interstellar craft will be large, slow, and impossible to miss. Those two-year-old records? A typical flight will take two centuries or two millenia!


Nothing is 100% impenetrable, and there's always a weakness. And the greatest weakness of all are...


No matter how safe everything is, if someone has the credentials to move stuff from/to the planet, then you can simply bribe him. You can pay him loads of money, threaten him or his family or even manipulate him. An excellent hacker may be able to defeat the machine's security systems, but it's way easier to defeat the humans in control of the machines (mandatory xkcd reference)

When some guy called Leonard de Vinci got bored, he used to think of ways to create impenetrable defenses for a city. But then, he always found a way to surpass them. Here, you don't have a city to protect, you have an entire friggin' planet with maybe the most valuable assets one can dream of. If some federation is able to put so much efforts in protecting it, some other will be able to overcome the protection. And the weakest point is always human.



Knowing well the defenses of this planet an adversary would not attempt to sneak in. They would go with full frontal assault. Machines are susceptible to electronic attack, specifically focused electromagnetic radiation or EMP strikes. By virtue of being autonomous systems, their sensors will be vulnerable to attack because they can't be under the EMP shield.

Additionally, the encryption key(s) is a weak point too. Encrypt it all you want, but a quantum computer can make mincemeat out of an encryption scheme. Unfortunately for you, the radioactivity from the star will interfere with communications, which means broadcasting at a higher power or with error correction wich is all good news for anybody eavesdropping.

This is, of course, assuming that the system doesn't destroy itself as o.m. pointed out.


Actually it depends on the purpose of the quarantine itself, and the acceptable "quarantine level".

As long as someone (or something) can escape from the planet, whatever the method or protocol you have in place, there is no 100% security of whatever you keep down on the surface (or below the surface).

Black Hole

For 100% security, you'll need somewhere that things can come in, but can't come out.

Your system has a weakness that is impossible to close: the need to give clearance to authenticated visitor (human or drone).

On your 6th point, at some point there will be a need to introduce someone new as authenticated person. Maybe the previous staff died, of combat, illness, or old age, or just got moved elsewhere.

Whatever the protocol will be, it opens up the possibility of giving authentication to fake person or drone.

And I assume that authentication is provided by someone/something outside of the secured system, which can be faked by someone skilled enough.

Remember that security of a system is only as strong as its weakest link. If the system interacts with less secure system, then the whole system integrity is jeopardized.


If anything is ever legitimately allowed through your defenses, then something illegitimate will eventually find a way to sneak in via the same methods.

If you put a gate in a wall, eventually someone will find out how to go through that gate.

It may take time. And it may be quite expensive, but as long as there's a profit to be made, chances are good that someone will take the risk.

The smarter move is to allow key participants to quietly create a black market and smuggle things in, but only those goods that are low risk. If black markets exist but exist with some quiet monitoring involved, then the odds are they'll work to keep out competition and to keep you informed of any high-risk goods coming in through some competitor's smuggling ring. Better to work with the "enemy" you know than to find out later about the enemy you didn't know.

Or it could depend on how badly you want the planet locked down. If your defenses are too expensive, then smugglers won't risk it. Because they're in it for money, they'll stay away from a high-risk, low-profit world. (Unless they're in it for patriotism or some other noble cause; then all bets are off.)


There have been a lot of good answers so far, but only one I've seen that deals with the question inside your question: practical vs. absolute security.

The question is: is my planet impenetrable?

Answer: No.

Second question: is my planet practically impenetrable?

Answer: Perhaps.

Take for example the space elevator. You use 3-key encryption to allow or deny access, with security protocol on the planet checking your credentials. From a technical standpoint, using a1-time pad for example, to anything but a quantum computer you are practically safe.

But, your three high ranking officials could collude to do something underhanded, and there goes the whole thing. You can always build a stronger base, give it more security layers, maybe add measures like encrypting the location of the planet itself , etc., but your most vulnerable component are the ones making decisions what stays and goes.

That said, if you can trust your government, then pick your strongest security elements, and make them practically secure. Decrease the number of people who know it exists, base your strongest defences around keeping the designated methods of entry secret and safe, and then making sure that your three high ranking officials keep the secret (a Ben Franklin quote comes to mind).

That said, what you have sounds tolerably secure, and ultimately it will be up to you as the creator of the story to decide if that practical security was strong enough, or if that 1 in 10 billion billion chance just happened to be the one they tried.


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