Elon Musk’s Starlink donation

Re: @elonmusk’s starlink donation.

Good to see.

But remember: if #Putin controls the air above #Ukraine, users’ uplink transmissions become beacons… for airstrikes.

Some background 1/Image

2/ #Russia has decades of experience hitting people by targeting their satellite communications.

In 1996, Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev was careful, but Russian aircraft reportedly found his satphone call & killed him with a missile strike.


10th Anniversary Of Chechen Leader’s Death NotedDzhokhar Dudayev at a rally in the Chechen capital Grozny in 1994 (ITAR-TASS) PRAGUE, April 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) – Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Dzhokhar Dudayev, the first president…https://www.rferl.org/a/1067831.html

3/ Satellite phones tend to send signals out in all directions.

Making them easy targets.

The technology for locating & intercepting them is well-honed.

This is different from starlink…ImageImage

4/ In more recent years, other kids of tech has entered the conflict-zone game. Like VSATs.

In Syria, Libya, etc etc. VSATs have played a pivotal role in communications. Everyone uses them.

They have a more directional signal & typically provide broadband data.Image

5/ Still, here are various ways to spot, geolocate, & drop a missile on VSAT satellite internet terminals…

…and #Russia has recent battle-tested experience doing just this in Syria, where ISIS, FSA and everyone else has used them.

Pic: random .ru airstrike.Image

6/In Syria, ISIS reportedly came up w/ various tactics to avoid being killed by strikes against their satellite internet terminals.

E.g. Distancing dishes from their installations, covertly taking a connection from civilian internet cafes’ VSATs, etc…

Deadly cat & mouse.

7/ Takeaway: early in a conflict w/disrupted internet, satellite internet feels like a savior.

But it quickly introduces very real, deadly new vulnerabilities

If you don’t understand them, people die needlessly until they learn & adapt.

This has happened again. And again.

8/ I’ve skipped some tech like BGANs, but why should you take anything I say seriously?

Well: I’ve researched the role & risks of internet & satellite communications during armed conflicts…for a decade.

I’m writing this thread because I see a familiar mistake looming. Again.

9/ Want to read more about connectivity risks in armed conflict?

I wrote this case study to persuade policymakers & militaries to not encourage brave people to paint targets on their backs without knowing the risks.
LINK: digital-commons.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewconten…ImageImageImageImage

10/ A well-resourced military tracks a massive variety of radio emissions during a war.

Even if capabilities are not initially specced out for a novel new communications protocol, if the transmission is interesting enough / the users worth killing, it will be worked on…

11/ People asking about tracking cellphones.

Cellphones are a giant-blinking-risk in a conflict zone. They emit a powerful signal that spills in every direction.

Most countries’ militaries have suites of capabilities for them, from things in the air…to things in backpacks.

12/ Every tech should be considered & evaluated.

But if well-meaning people rush an untested-in-war new tech into an active conflict zone like #Ukraine & promote it as “safer”…

They may get people killed.

Russia has big electronic ears.

13/ Remember: encryption doesn’t prevent GEOLOCATION based on radio emissions.

A smartphone or satcom user can be on encrypted call, using a VPN, etc. etc. correctly believing that nobody is LISTENING to them… right up until the instant they are nabbed.Image

1 point