As the war for Ukrainian freedom rages on, the fight for information and internet in areas under attack have been given a boost in hotspots. With the help of Elon Musk’s satellite-based Internet company, Starlink, Ukraine has received satellite connection and trucks full of thousands of antennas.
Since receiving Starlink antennas, Ukrainians have been able to have Internet access, technology companies have been able to stay afloat, the government can communicate and receive updates, and perform drone attacks. Mykahailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation and the one who initially pleaded to Elon Musk for help, told the Washington post that:
“The quality of the link is excellent,” and that, “We are using thousands, in thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day.”
With an increase of shipments, The Mirror reports that Starlink’s app was downloaded close to 100,000 times in Ukraine and even more around the world.
This has also led to the curious decision of taunting Vladimir Putin over Twitter where Elon Musk challenged him to a fight.
I hereby challenge
to single combat
Stakes are Україна
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 14, 2022
With the success of Starlink, security concerns arise. Could receiving Starlink internet result in putting targets on the people’s backs, and giveaway government intel? A Berkeley security researcher, Nicholas Weaver, told CNN that:
“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.”
Afterward, Elon Musk added that the use of Starlink can be used against Ukraine:
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
So far, there is no news indicating that this has happened yet. But the risk has been acknowledged by Ukrainian officials.
Sure, @elonmusk. We are going to use them for Ukrainians also after our victory ?
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 3, 2022
Starlink aiding Ukraine amidst the risks involved is a real test of their technology. But there is no doubt that even a slow internet speed in a war-torn area could help civilians get the latest information and help support infrastructure. Though, the internet providers in Ukraine have been compromised by possible Russian-state hackers. Could the aid Starlink is giving end the same way and or be used to geolocate potential targets? We will have to wait and see.