a Belgian hacker rewarded by SpaceX for having found a security flaw

Laura Van Lerberghe, edited by Ophélie Artaud

A young Belgian engineer received 12,000 euros from the company SpaceX for having detected a major security problem linked to the Starlink internet system, created by the American billionaire Elon Musk. Europe 1 met this gifted, who revealed his method with few means but a lot of patience.

Rest assured, this was not an alien invasion. You may have noticed these bright objects in the sky last weekend. It was about fifty satellites, those linked to Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet service. They were launched into space last Friday. If we tell you about it, it’s because a young Belgian student managed to hack into the billionaire’s system. A gifted who revealed a major security breach. And for that, he was even rewarded by Elon Musk’s company. He tells his method to Europe 1.

“They congratulated me on my research”

A satellite dish, a budget of 25 euros and a lot of patience, that’s all it took Lennert Wouters, an engineer at the University of Louvain to detect a flaw in the Starling system. “We first disassembled the dish to understand the software used. Our objective was to assess its level of security.” Second step: generate a short circuit, a veritable sleight of hand to enter the company’s system. “This electric shock allowed us to ignore certain security parameters. This is the first step in trying to hack a satellite in space.”

And, hacking one can have consequences, like colliding with another satellite and generating lots of debris in space. The discovery therefore earned this 30-year-old student a reward of 12,000 euros offered by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company. “I was very happy to receive positive reactions. The SpaceX security team published a document. In it, they congratulate me on my research and they told me that this was the first attack of this type on their system.” An example to follow according to SpaceX. To prevent system failures, the company has announced that it is hiring hackers. Rewards can be up to $25,000.

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