Even though Starlink won’t be able to shoulder the responsibility in the events of a country-wide internet blackout, it will still be able to provide a hotspot for crucial activities involving journalism reports from the ground, deployment of support channels, and life-saving necessities. While the move to send aid to the Ukrainians under invasion was applauded, it also came with its own set of risks. Experts warned that in times of war, satellite signals can be intercepted for geolocating vulnerable citizens and targeting enemies. It can’t be ruled out that a specialized aircraft hasn’t or won’t be deployed for detecting signals and honing in on their transmission.
Related: How Twitter, Facebook, And TikTok Are Handling The Invasion Of Ukraine
With such high risks involved, Musk has now shared a few pieces of cautionary advice regarding the deployment of Starlink antennas in Ukraine. Starting with the most obvious aspect, Musk tweeted that Starlink is the sole non-Russia-reliant internet service in Ukraine, which means the chances of these antennas coming under attack are higher. In a subsequent Tweet, Musk added those in possession of Starlink hardware should switch on the satellite internet connection only when needed, ensuring that chances of signal detection are minimized, if not entirely eliminated. Doubling down on the safety risks involved, Musk notes that the Starlink dish should be installed as far away from a residential quarter as possible.
Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
Camouflage & Power Consumption Cuts
While location away from people is a fairly obvious safety measure, it is one that can potentially be life-saving if the satellite signal is geolocated and attacked. The risks are especially elevated, as the demand for Starlink was publicly made by Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, a high-profile target who will potentially be using the hardware to organize anti-invasion activities and take other necessary measures to minimize the threat. In a subsequent Tweet, Musk mentioned that a light camouflage should be installed over the antenna so that it can’t be visually detected by satellite imagery or other long-range visual inspection tools that are deployed.
After being asked whether a thin layer of spray paint would work as a camouflage measure, Musk affirmed that it should work, as long as the paint doesn’t contain metallic particles. Metallic objects can interfere with electromagnetic radiation, which means they can interfere with the internet signals and greatly affect connectivity. Finally, Musk also tweeted that the Starlink software has been updated to drastically reduce the antenna’s power consumption, and to such an extent that it can be “powered from a car cigarette lighter.” Moreover, in order to ensure that vulnerable Ukrainians are connected to the internet while on the move, Musk also says mobile roaming has been enabled on Starlink terminals, which means the antenna can also be installed on a moving vehicle as well.