As per a tweet posted by Elon Musk, there’s a high probability of the Starlink satellite internet service being targeted in Ukraine.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk has expressed his concerns over the future of SpaceX’s Starlink service in Ukraine, given the current scenario of uncertainty in the country post the Russian invasion.
As per a tweet posted by Musk, there’s a high probability of the Starlink satellite internet service being targeted. It is worth noting that internet connectivity in Ukraine plunged by 20% on 26 February, as per a report from Reuters.
Starlink in Demand in Ukraine
Over the weekend, Elon Musk’s SpaceX activated the Starlink internet service in Ukraine after a formal request was made. The country’s minister of digital transformation and first Vice Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, requested Musk to send more Starlink stations because the Russian invasion had disrupted the country’s internet service considerably.
Fedorov also posted a photo of a truckload of Starlink terminals on Monday and the government thanked Musk for helping Ukrainian cities stay connected and making it possible to deal with emergencies.
Fedorov stated that they needed generators to ensure Starlink service stays online if Russia attacks critical infrastructure. Musk responded to this concern by providing a software update to reduce peak power consumption and enable Starlink devices powered by car cigarette lighters.
The terminals resemble home satellite dishes, a standard kit costing around $499. The terminals connect to Starlink satellites to improve internet speed.
Elon Musk’s Warning
In his warning message on Twitter, Elon Musk wrote that since Starlink is now the only non-Russian communication system currently active in Ukraine, the probability of it being targeted is considerably high.
Therefore, people must remain cautious. He advised users to place the antenna as far away from their homes as possible and use “light camouflage” to cover the device and prevent it from getting detected.
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Starlink a “Giant Target” in Ukraine?
Not just Elon Musk, cybersecurity experts are also concerned over the probability of Russia targeting Starlink’s internet services. Speaking with CNN, security researcher Nicholas Weaver from the University of California at Berkeley stated that everyone using a Starlink device in Ukraine should consider it a “potential giant target.” That’s because if an adversary uses a specialized plane aloft, it can easily get detected and target the location, putting the user at risk.
A senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, John Scott-Railton, tweeted last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin controls the “air above” so that users’ uplink transmissions become viable targets for airstrikes.
Moreover, Christopher Scolese, the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) director, stated that the Russian military might target satellites. He believes that Russia would want to intercept/disrupt Ukraine’s satellite-based internet traffic, GPS services, and communications, thereby extending this war into space if it intends to.