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Are Starlink satellites attractive to hackers?

Written by Fri 18 Mar 2022

Thanks to the launch of satellites by companies like SpaceX, countless innovations have been made possible. People will be able to access an Internet connection from virtually anywhere in the world, hard-to-reach environments can be monitored remotely and, most recently, internet access can be offered to residents in war-torn Ukraine.

Earlier this year SpaceX became the operator of the world’s largest active satellite constellation, with more than 240 Starlink satellites in operation today and plans are in place to launch as much as 42,000. Despite these ambitious goals, concerns have been raised around the security of these satellites in recent years.

As Starlink satellites were received by Ukraine in recent weeks, John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab project, warned that these terminals may become Russian targets.

“Re: @elonmusk’s starlink donation. Good to see. But remember: if #Putin controls the air above #Ukraine, users’ uplink transmissions become beacons … for airstrikes,” he tweeted.

Scott-Railton points out that as these satellites require a clear view of the sky to work and are best placed on top of high buildings, they may become easy targets for Russia.

In 2020, researchers at the University of Surrey published an article that identified major cyber security threats against future satellite control and communications systems. The main weakness the team found were around a lack of comprehensive security analysis of deployed systems and a ‘security-by-obscurity’ mentality.

Dr Mark Manulis, co-author of the paper and Deputy-Director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security at the University of Surrey, believes satellite technology can bring many advantages to society, but it’s vital security considerations are prioritised.

“It is important to make sure that satellites launched today will remain secure and resistant to cyber-attacks as their vulnerabilities may cause chaos in space and harm humans on earth,” Manulis said.

Written by Fri 18 Mar 2022

Tags:

elon musk security Starlink
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