SpaceX Sent Starlink Internet Terminals to Ukraine

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent a truckload of Starlink antennas — which can be used to connect to the company’s satellite-based internet service — to Ukraine this week, responding to a plea from the country’s vice prime minister amid fears that Ukrainians could lose internet access if Russia continues its attacks on communication infrastructure. But using satellite services can be dangerous in wartime, as evidenced by a history of states using satellite signals to geolocate and target enemies, cybersecurity experts said.

If an adversary has a specialized plane aloft, it can detect [a satellite] signal and home in on it,” Nicholas Weaver, a security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, explained via email.

It isn’t necessarily easy, but the Russians have a lot of practice on tracking various signal emitters in Syria and responding. Starlink may work for the moment, but anyone setting a [Starlink] dish up in Ukraine needs to consider it as a potential giant target.

In short: “It may be useful, but for safety’s sake you don’t want to set it (or really any distinctive emitter) up in Ukraine anywhere close to where you would not want a Russian bomb dropping,” Weaver said.
Shortly after this story was originally published, Musk also weighed in on Twitter, saying “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.”
He went on to advise users in Ukraine to “turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible,” and to “place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection.”