Communications, Cyber Security, Tech

July 3, 2023

Unveiling the Cyber Security of Starlink

There’s been so much buzz and excitement around what Starlink can do recently with speed, latency and costs all surpassing what VSAT could ever provide for communications on a yacht. But no one has really been talking about what it should do, how secure is their network once traffic leaves your firewall, what potential vulnerabilities it has, how easy are jamming attacks which have been so common over Russian airspace recently?

Starlink now has an ultra hardened version of Starlink for use in government applications named “Starshield”. According to the latest Starshield press release, “Starlink already offers unparalleled end-to-end user data encryption. Starshield uses additional high-assurance cryptographic capability to host classified payloads and process data securely, meeting the most demanding requirements.”

That’s great but it’s a fairly vague statement in terms of security standards and protocols. What about all of those terminal hackings using a $25 circuit board, or the fact that none of the Starlink satellites adhere to the U.S National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines for Cybersecurity for commercial satellite operations?… Have Starlink cut corners in network security in order to try and be the first successful LEO household “brand” out there?

The low-down

Well yes and no… Starlink utilises a secure connection protocol known as Transport Layer Security (TLS). TLS is a cryptographic protocol that provides communication privacy and data integrity between two communicating computer applications. This means that data transmitted between Starlink’s satellites and a user’s device is encrypted, making it more difficult for hackers to intercept or access. It also uses a technology known as “Zero-Trust Networking” to protect user data. This technology aims to prevent malicious actors from gaining access to Starlink’s network by monitoring all activity and ensuring that only the most trusted users and devices are granted access.

Detailed security specifications on Starlink’s network are very difficult to come by but the above security protocols alone don’t offer watertight coverage of users personal security whilst using the service.

Enter the incentive program

SpaceX have however launched a “Bug Bounty Program” which is offering up to $25000 to participants who are able to find security vulnerabilities or hack a Starlink terminal and/or satellite before it can be exploited.

This pro-active incentive attitude is genius in comparison to other similar service providers who rely on a reactionary approach to security threats. It also shows a dedication to identifying and resolving vulnerabilities, ensuring the safety and privacy of its users.

While there may be some lingering questions about Starlink’s network security, the company’s use of encryption protocols, Zero-Trust Networking, and the Bug Bounty Program indicates a genuine effort to enhance security and protect user data. As Starlink continues to evolve and refine its services, it is crucial for them to maintain a strong focus on cybersecurity to build trust among its users and ensure a secure and reliable communication experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *