Russia is 'ramping up' efforts to take down Starlink internet over Ukraine

Though SpaceX has "resisted Russian cyberwar jamming and hacking attempts so far".
Chris Young

Russia's Ukraine war is unfolding in cyberspace too.

The country, which staunchly admits only to having started a "special military operation" in Ukraine, has been behind several cyberattack campaigns against satellite internet providers since its invasion.

And it is now "ramping up" efforts to take down SpaceX's Starlink internet in the region, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted today, May 11.

"Indiscriminate communications outages"

In late February, at the start of the invasion, Russia carried out a massive cyberattack against a satellite internet network, Viasat's KA-SAT, that took tens of thousands of modems offline, affecting coverage over Ukraine as well as nearby countries.

According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the cyberattack was carried out "to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had spillover impacts into other European countries." Meanwhile, the Council of the EU said the hack caused "indiscriminate communication outages."

The satellite modem hack caused a massive outage in communications in Ukraine at the outset of the war, leading Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov to appeal to Musk to provide SpaceX Starlink internet coverage in the country.

SpaceX has provided its service for free in the country, and it has also donated terminals required to connect to its service. Recent reports showed that up to 150,000 people were connecting to the service daily in Ukraine. The service was helping Ukrainian children with cancer receive treatment, thanks to another donation from Inspiration4 astronaut and philanthropist Jared Isaacman.

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Russia is "ramping up" its Starlink jamming efforts

Unsurprisingly the Starlink service has also been the target of numerous Russian cyberattacks.

In April, we reported that a Pentagon official said they were amazed by the speed at which SpaceX dealt with a cyberattack aimed at its Starlink service. 

Speaking at the C4ISRNET Conference on April 20, Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the way SpaceX dealt with the jamming attack "was eye-watering" to him due to its speed and efficiency. However, just yesterday, Musk tweeted that "Starlink has resisted Russian cyberwar jamming [and] hacking attempts so far, but they're ramping up their efforts."

Musk recently also re-posted a message from Russia space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin on Twitter, threatening that the SpaceX CEO would face repercussions for aiding the "Nazi Azov battalion" in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine continues as forces also fight to control the narrative and communications in the region.

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