Starlink boss Elon Musk has warned the Ukrainian government and its people that using its dishes to stay connected to the internet could make them a major target for Russian missile strikes.
After failing the initial attempt at a blitzkrieg, the Russian attackers have shifted towards a longer-lasting military operation, which means destroying Ukraine's key infrastructure.
In a clear attempt to disable communications in the country, the Russian army has already hit Kyiv’s TV tower with missiles, and now its internet could be next.
Being an extremely important means of communication, the internet has also been targeted by the Russians, with Musk taking to Twitter to sound the alarm:
“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,” he tweeted.
A few days into the invasion, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, took to Twitter to ask Elon Musk for help, to enable the Starlink satellite internet in the country. Musk responded within a day, confirming that the company will comply, and soon after, images of shipped satellite dishes emerged online.
Fedorov later tweeted a photo of a Starlink dish on a rooftop, which could make it a potential target.
When asked how the Ukrainians could use the dish “with caution,” Musk explained: “Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna...as far away from people as possible.”
“Place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection,” he added.
Reporting on the story, PC Mag said that users could also spray it into a more inconspicuous color, but to make sure the paint doesn’t contain metal particles.
Fedorov said the Russian army uses heat scanners to target the country’s infrastructure, and has asked Musk for advice. The Starlink CEO said the users could combine the dishes with solar panels and battery packs to make any generated heat less visible.
It seems that the conflict, and Starlink’s place in it, has also given Musk a few upgrade ideas, saying that the company is working on a software update so that “Starlink can be powered from car cigarette lighter,” and that mobile roaming dishes will soon become available, as well.
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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.