Ukraine has received equipment to use Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service to back up the country’s communications capabilities while fighting against Russian invaders, according to Ukrainian digital transformation minister Mykhailo Federov.
The security of the technology from Mr. Musk’s SpaceX company will be tested if Ukrainians are forced to use it.
Starlink provides high-speed internet through connections to satellites in low-earth orbit.
Mr. Federov requested the Starlink equipment from Mr. Musk on Saturday, and the Ukrainian official said on Monday via Twitter that he received the equipment.
Mr. Federov thanked Mr. Musk for the equipment and shared an image of boxes in the back of a truck.
“You are most welcome,” Mr. Musk said in reply.
Concerns remain about whether the Russian government can exploit the satellite services to attack Ukrainians. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, expressed fear on Twitter that the Starlink services could become beacons for airstrikes.
“Now that Starlink devices are headed into an active conflict zone, though, *possible* risks are about to get battle tested,” Mr. Scott-Railton said on Twitter. “I hope that OPSEC is front of mind as decisions are made about terminal distribution, use & placement.”
Ukraine has already faced disruptive cyberattacks that have prompted it to relocate key information technology equipment. Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said via Twitter on Monday that it moved IT infrastructure to new locations as some embassy websites recovered from cyberattacks.
Starlink is hardly the only technology that Ukraine’s enemies may use to track soldiers and citizens. For example, Google temporarily disabled live traffic data on Google Maps to protect people’s safety in Ukraine, according to Reuters.
The live traffic data uses location information to spotlight which roads are congested and which places are busy. As Russia advanced on Ukraine last week, people on Twitter discussed a “traffic jam” on the road from Russia to the Ukrainian border.
Internet connectivity has proven critical to getting information into and out of Ukraine. Mr. Federov has also encouraged technology companies to get involved against Russia and urged Apple and Spotify to block the accounts of Russian artists who support the war.
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