Elon Musk warns to use Starlink ‘with caution’ in Ukraine

Days after sending SpaceX Starlink internet terminals to Ukraine, Elon Musk is warning people there to “please use with caution.” As a non-Russian communications system, the Starlink satellite internet service has a “high” probability of being targeted during the ongoing Russian invasion, Musk said. 

The SpaceX founder and CEO advised users to only turn on Starlink when needed and to place the antenna as far away from people as possible. He also suggested visibly camouflaging antennas. 

Some cybersecurity experts have similarly warned that satellite communications systems can put users at risk, particularly given Russia’s extensive experience targeting satellites. 

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, noted on Twitter last weekend that “if #Putin controls the air above #Ukraine, users’ uplink transmissions become beacons… for airstrikes.”

Additionally, the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Director Christopher Scolese recently warned that Russia’s military can target satellites to disrupt satellite-based internet traffic, communications, and GPS services. Scolese said that if Russia feels it needs to, they will extend their war into space.

While using satellite communications comes with serious risks, it does avoid the problems that come with conventional landline broadband. Global internet access tracker NetBlocks told ZDNet that connectivity in Ukraine is down 20% since the start of the conflict, following an increase in Russian bombing campaigns and rocket fire.

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