Starlink, the internet constellation owned and operated by SpaceX, provides internet coverage to most of the Earth. Anyone with the Starlink kit can use it to access the low latency, high-speed internet service.
Russia can target Starlink in Ukraine
Starlink in Ukraine
In the midst of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, a request was made to Elon Musk, by the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, to activate Starlink services in Ukraine. Musk reacted swiftly and the internet service started functioning within 24 hours. Subsequently, Ukraine received a truck full of Starlink kits to increase the network’s coverage. People in Ukraine and the rest of the world applauded the prompt response in times of crisis. However, there are certain doubts regarding the safety of Starlink’s usage.
Can Russians target Starlink?
The speculation regarding Russians targeting Starlink increased following a tweet by Elon.
Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
Musk explained the precautions to be taken while using Starlink in such times of crisis.
Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
How does Starlink work?
Starlink is a satellite internet service that works by beaming data via radio signals through the vacuum of space. This mitigates the need to install fiber cables to connect to the internet. As a result, internet access is easily available to rural areas as well. However, the internet connection provided by a satellite internet service isn’t as fast or reliable as a fiber connection.
Starlink is changing this. While it is still a satellite internet service, it uses different methods to attain better results. This includes using satellites that are only 300 miles away from the surface of the earth. This shortened distance improves internet speeds drastically. Secondly, SpaceX plans on launching 40,000 such satellites to ensure worldwide coverage and to avoid a drop in connectivity. Since Starlink requires just a clear view of the sky to work efficiently, rural areas can easily use the service.
Can Russia target Starlink?
An internet security researcher, John Scott-Railton, posted a Twitter thread about Starlink’s potential security threat. According to Railton, the uplink transmissions by Starlink users can be used to triangulate their locations. If Russia is controlling the Ukrainian airspace, they can use this method to conduct airstrikes.
Re: @elonmusk's starlink donation.
Good to see.
But remember: if #Putin controls the air above #Ukraine, users' uplink transmissions become beacons… for airstrikes.
Some background 1/ pic.twitter.com/0p6J87TtUF
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) February 27, 2022
The Starlink kit is fairly visible when placed to obtain an optimum connection. This could further increase the risk. Starlink’s official Twitter account and Elon are constantly tweeting and responding to such queries.
In addition to placing the antenna away from people, light camouflage should be placed on it to avoid detection. This will hide the Starlink antenna from aerial views. It will also mitigate the chance of the Russian army using antennae as a location for airstrikes.
Starlink is a massive help to Ukrainians in this time of crisis. With the uncertainty about the situation between the two nations, it provides some relief. While it doesn’t stop the war between the two nations, it provides businesses with a backup plan in case any of their usual connections fail. It also provides them with comfort, knowing that there are people outside who are willing to help them. In such times of crisis, even the smallest of help can be motivating. It is also a testament to Elon’s will of helping people.