Collateral Damage: Russia Admits Potential Targeting of Commercial Satellites

Source: Shacknews and Starlink


On Thursday October 27, 2022, the Wall Street Journal reports that Konstantin Vorontsov, a deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, admits that commercial satellite companies could be attack targets during the conflict in Ukraine. While Starlink hasn’t been named directly, Elon Musk has revealed multiple times that his company’s Starlink constellation has been under jamming attacks over the skies of Ukraine. With its communications infrastructure damaged, the Ukrainian military has been relying partly on the Starlink constellation for command and control. Both Elon Musk and the US Department of Defense have invested in enabling this capability.

While the good news is that Putin has said he never intended to use nuclear weapons in the conflict, the remark by Vorontsov, a senior Russian official, has potentially unleashed further cyber attacks against Starlink or any other non-military commercial space entities indirectly participating in the Ukraine conflict. This is the first time I have heard Russia admitting publicly to use cyberattack resources against satellites. As collateral damage, we could see a shifting of resources by Russian hackers from attacking terrestrial targets to satellite targets. The Wall Street Journal article mentions experts expressing concerns on physical attacks with anti-satellite capabilities. In order to avoid LEO debris that could hurt Russian assets, I think digital attacks are more likely, with tactics escalating in severity from the current jamming attacks.