Hack Starlink and get up to $25,000 as a reward from SpaceX

Within acceptable limits of course!
Ameya Paleja
SpaceX Headquarters during Iridium-4 launch operations.
SpaceX Headquarters during Iridium-4 launch operations.

Wikimedia Commons 

  • Starlink provides satellite-based internet services to even remote parts of the world.
  • Recently, a hacker showed how the Starlink terminal could be hacked to run arbitrary code.
  • SpaceX is open to working with researchers who will expose their security bugs without disrupting its services

Elon Musk's SpaceX wants researchers and internet security specialists to hack into its Starlink network and report bugs that you find. For this, it is ready to pay you up to $25,000, Business Insider reported.

The Elon Musk space company may be popular for ferrying astronauts and cargo missions on its reusable rockets, but its satellite internet services have also made a mark in recent times. When Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, it also tried to break the communication chain inside the country by attacking its fiber optic network. However, SpaceX's terminals were flown in, and connectivity was restored in a matter of days.

As the services become available in more countries, Starlink is likely to see a large number of users. Since the company, ships its terminal to anybody who pays for it, even in the remotest parts of the country, it has no control over how the terminals are used and possibly even misused to gain entry to its network.

The $25 Starlink Hack

Last week, we reported how a custom-made modchip could be used to hack into Starlink's 'Dishy' and cause a glitch that allows hackers to access locked parts of the system. Reports suggest that the modchip, made from off-the-shelf parts can be put together for a measly sum of $25 and gives the attacker, root access to the terminal that allows them to execute arbitrary code.

Such a hack compromises the Starlink terminal in a way, that it cannot be fixed by the company and was also shared at the recently concluded BlackHat Conference in the U.S. Luckily, the intention of the hacker was not to disrupt Starlink's services but to demonstrate how vulnerable the infrastructure was and how it needed to be improved.

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Starlink's Bug Bounty Program

The ease with which the hacker, Lennert Wouters, managed to get into the Starlink terminal prompted the parent company to release a six-page document that spends a fair bit of time explaining what security measures Starlink's network is equipped with and what Wouters' hack means for the regular users of Starlink's services, which is basically no-risk.

It is only on the last two pages that the company goes on to state that it encourages others to hack into its systems and also rewards them for reporting bugs to the company.

SpaceX also wants these hacks to be carried out in the least disruptive way possible and has a long page dedicated to how its values your bug-finding efforts. This basically means that even if you find a damning bug, you need to give the company sufficient time to respond to it before you go out disrupting the network or accessing data that does not belong to you and running to media houses with it.

Payouts for these efforts max out at $25,000. However, the average payout in the past three months has been at $973 with a validation time of five days for a majority of the reported bugs.

For those looking to contribute to the company's services over the long term, you can also look into career opportunities at the company, the document goes on to state.