Elon Musk’s satellites: a hacked Starlink terminal, a first

Starlink, the fleet of satellites deployed by billionaire Elon Musk, aims to bring the internet to every corner of the world, even the most remote, cheaply and quickly. To access the connection, it is necessary to have a dedicated terminal, a kind of satellite dish. The specialized media Wired reports that, for the first time, a Starlink terminal has been hacked. The author of the hack, in this case ethical, is Lennert Wouters, from the Belgian university KU Leuven. This cybersecurity researcher presented the procedure at the BlackHat conference, held recently in Las Vegas.

Kit worth $25

The weak point lies in the hardware of the Starlink terminal. Lennert Wouters took it apart and connected a custom printed circuit board called a “modchip” to it, costing $25. The device was used to trick the terminal into causing a short circuit, bypassing system security protocols and gaining direct access.

The researcher reportedly reported the flaw to Starlink a year ago. The manufacturer would then have installed a software update to counter this type of piracy. But Lennert Wouters again managed to exploit the flaw after modifying his modchip. The problem can only be solved definitively with a new generation of terminals.

The attack is admittedly not devastating enough to disable satellite systems or connectivity, but it can be used, according to the researcher, to learn more about how the Starlink network works.

No worries from Starlink

At Starlink, we don’t worry much. In a document published shortly after the presentation of the hack, the firm claims that the attack only gives access to a single end-user terminal. “Normal users of Starlink do not have to worry about having been affected by this attack, nor to take countermeasures”, specifies the company of Elon Musk.

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