As the US blames Russia for the KA-SAT hack, Starlink sees a growing threat

TAMPA, Fla. – Elon Musk says Russian hackers are ramping up efforts to shut down SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service amid the war in Ukraine.

“So far, Starlink has resisted Russian cyber warfare hacking and interference attempts, but they are ramping up their efforts,” Musk tweeted on May 10.

Earlier in the day, the United States formally blamed Russia for a late February cyberattack on Viasat’s KA-SAT satellite Internet network.

“Today, in support of the European Union and other partners, the United States is publicly sharing its assessment that Russia launched cyberattacks in late February against commercial satellite communications networks to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had indirect impacts. to other European countries,” US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a press release dated May 10.

Blinken said the Russian cyberattack “disabled very small aperture terminals in Ukraine and across Europe,” including “tens of thousands of terminals outside of Ukraine that, among other things, support wind turbines and provide internet services to private citizens.”

Some KA-SAT customers have had to replace modems to continue using the network, which Viasat says is now stabilized.

US-based Viasat owns KA-SAT, but a subsidiary of France’s Eutelsat operates satellite services in Europe through a network of distributors. Viasat typically sells satellite services directly to end customers, including the US government, which Viasat says was not affected by the outage.

Blinken said that the US government has developed new mechanisms to help Ukraine identify cyber threats and recover from cyber incidents.

“We have also enhanced our support for Ukraine’s digital connectivity, including providing satellite phones and data terminals to Ukrainian government officials, essential service providers and critical infrastructure operators,” he said.

SpaceX has been shipping Starlink terminals to Ukraine since shortly after the February 24 invasion after a public plea from Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov.

Fedorov, who also serves as the nation’s minister for digital transformation, said on May 2 that there were about 150,000 active Starlink users in Ukraine.

In early March, Musk said shifting resources to address Starlink interference would cause “slight delays” for his proposed second-generation constellation, and the Starship SpaceX heavy launch vehicle is being developed in Texas.

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