In a hacking attempt carried out by a security researcher, Lennert Wouters, at the Belgian university KU Leuven, the Starlink satellite-based internet system operated by SpaceX was successfully hacked.
The most shocking thing is that it cost him approx 25 dollars only to make a homemade circuit board to hack the system.
A series of hardware vulnerabilities have allowed hackers to access the Starlink system, allowing them to run custom code on the devices and gain control over the Starlink system.
During the Black Hat security conference, security analyst Wouters will briefly unveil all the essential details.
Starlink Satellite Hacked
As part of designing the modchip, Wouters created a layout that fits over the existing Starlink board based on scanning the Starlink dish. By soldering the modchip directly to the Starlink PCB, he could connect it to the existing Starlink PCB.
This kit includes the following components:
- Raspberry Pi microcontroller
- Flash storage
- Electronic switches
- Voltage regulator
The tool also launched a fault injection attack on the Starlink dish once it was attached, which led to a temporary shortage of the system as a result. Consequently, Wouters was able to bypass Starlink’s security measures to gain access to the system’s locked areas.
Wouters’ attack took advantage of an error in the bootloader and ran the glitch on this bootloader. Afterward, he deployed patched firmware that enabled him to control the dish by using later bootloaders.
The launch of more than 3,000 small satellites since 2018 has already provided Internet access to locations that terrestrial networks cannot reach and haven’t been able to reach for many years.
As more and more satellites are launched, their operation’s security will become more critical. Since malicious hackers have already targeted satellite internet systems.
During Russian troops’ entry into Ukraine, Russia attacked a satellite that provides internet communications all over Europe. It has been estimated that about 30,000 internet connections have been disrupted throughout Europe.
Even the tide effects of this event were felt in other critical infrastructures and aviation navigation systems.
The researcher notified Starlink of the flaws last year, and the company paid Wouters through its bug bounty scheme for identifying the vulnerabilities.
This is what Starlink reiterates:-
As the attack requires physical access to the user terminal, it emphasizes that it only affects a single device and not the entire system that was compromised due to the glitching process. Starlink’s overall system, which includes a wide range of systems, is not affected by this issue.