Musk Warns Starlink Could Attract Russian Bombs

Security

Tesla boss Elon Musk has admitted that users of his Starlink satellite communications system in Ukraine could attract enemy fire.

The warning came last week, as a truckload of satellite dishes arrived in the war-torn Eastern European country after a government request.

Starlink terminals communicate with a constellation of around 2000 satellites in a low orbit around the Earth. As such, they’re harder to take out than land-based internet communications.

However, the Russian military may still target them.

“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,” warned Musk in a tweet.

His warning echoes similar missives from digital experts. Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton claimed uplink transmissions from terminals effectively become beacons for airstrikes.

“Russia has decades of experience hitting people by targeting their satellite communications,” he said. “In 1996, Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev was careful, but Russian aircraft reportedly found his satphone call & killed him with a missile strike.”

Scott-Railton added that Russia used satellite comms to target ISIS fighters in Syria.

The Kremlin may also look to disrupt the satellites themselves. Musk hinted at such activity in a tweet on Saturday.

“SpaceX reprioritized to cyber defense & overcoming signal jamming. Will cause slight delays in Starship & Starlink V2,” he said.

The director of US intelligence agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, warned last month that the Russian military could target US satellite communications.

That’s despite a warning from Roscosmos space agency boss Dmitry Rogozin last week that any cyber-attack on Russian satellites would be considered an act of war.

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