Starlink has been Hacked

Jamie Kavanagh
Jamie Kavanagh
August 23th, 2022

Starlink is one of the few disrupters I actually want to succeed. Despite being connected to its often all too eccentric founder, a world able to access the internet from anywhere is undoubtedly a good future.

I liked the company even more when Musk sent thousands of Starlink kits to Ukraine.

But, as the mantra goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Not only did the FCC reject a bid for financing because it thought it would never achieve the desired speeds, news has now surfaced that it has been hacked.

By a $25 homemade circuit board.

The hacker was Belgian security researcher Lennert Wouters. He discovered a weakness in a Starlink User Terminal (the satellite dish) known as a voltage fault injection attack. This allowed him to use a homemade circuit board to access the backend of Starlink.

Basically, this gave Wouters free reign to explore the network as he saw fit, without the company controlling what he did or where he went.

Wouters gave a demonstration at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. He showed how anyone with a right pieces of knowledge could create the board and attach it to a Starlink UT to access the network.

While not everyone has the skills or expertise to pull it off, it’s scary that anybody could. Moreover, the fact that they can do it with readily available components tips it right over the edge.

He used this kit to circumvent built-in protections and load his own code, allowing him free access to his UT.

According to Wouters himself:

“Our attack results in an unfixable compromise of the Starlink UT and allows us to execute arbitrary code. The ability to obtain root access on the Starlink UT is a prerequisite to freely explore the Starlink network.”

This doesn’t mean Starlink is over or that it’s unsafe. The security burned into the Starlink User Terminal is just one layer protecting the network at large.

That being said, it is a wakeup call to the company. With thousands of Starlink User Terminals out there in the world, this won’t be the last hack, or likely even the most dangerous.

For Starlink users, there’s nothing much to worry about. As far as we know, your data is safe and there’s no way to listen into your traffic.

The main danger is bad actors taking the constellation down like the Russians did to Ukraine’s satellites back in February.

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