back to article US to relax restrictions for tech companies in Iran

The US Treasury announced last Friday it was issuing a General License that provides some exemptions to Iran sanctions for internet and communication services in an effort to damper censorship. The country is undergoing near-total internet disruption in the west and intermittent interruptions nationwide with access to …

  1. zapper

    and when they arrest anyone in possession of a starlink dish for spying for the GREAT SATAN, what happens then.....

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      They disappear, and the west probably never hears about it. The problem with Starlink is that by broadcasting on known frequencies it would be trivial for a few drones to fly over a city and triangulate use of Starlink terminals.

      This is nice if you want to win positive press like Musk, but it isn't practical on the ground against a highly capable government (Iran's drones are so advanced they are who Putin recently turned to for buying more to replace his depleted supply)

      While this works in Ukraine and is no doubt helping immensely there, it is not feasible for providing connectivity inside the borders of countries like Iran, China, Russia, etc. Using it would be like putting up the US flag on your front door - you are leading the secret police right to you.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "The problem with Starlink is that by broadcasting on known frequencies it would be trivial for a few drones to fly over a city and triangulate use of Starlink terminals."

        The fastest way to turn it off is to find the downlink stations that connect Starlink to the internet. Not all of the current flock of birds have laser side links so they need line-of-sight to a ground station (not customer units). I wouldn't put it past Iran to do some small unit night ops if they need to visit a neighboring country to disable a ground station. They don't need to blow them up either. I can think of numerous ways of making them non-functional that isn't particularly kinetic in a major way. The simplest would be to make it look like some "youths" were stripping the installation for copper.

        With the beam-forming of the customer unit antennas, it won't be trivial to find them. There won't be a very wide beam to be able to find the signals unless there is some serious lobing. I don't doubt that they will be looking for them. The only way the government will allow the service is if it's monitored by them and the links sit behind their firewall.

        On the US side, Elon will need permission to supply his service to a country under sanctions. He's not very bright, but he should be able to figure out that he could be jeopardizing his licenses in not just the US by circumventing procedures.

        1. rcxb

          find the downlink stations that connect Starlink to the internet. Not all of the current flock of birds have laser side links so they need line-of-sight to a ground station (not customer units). I wouldn't put it past Iran to do some small unit night ops if they need to visit a neighboring country to disable a ground station.

          Iran's neigboring countries include Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Pakistan. All countries who are reasonably friendly with the US and their military. So, Iran might be able to pull that trick off once, but they would be back in operation shortly, and there would be no hope of a second time.

          And I wouldn't put it past the NSA or CIA to dump a truckload of money on Elon Musk's lawn to guarantee that the vast majority of operative Starlink satellites have laser links, in rather short order.

      2. rcxb

        it would be trivial for a few drones to fly over a city and triangulate use of Starlink terminals.

        Would it? Satellite dishes exist specifically to be highly directional antennas, and focus small amounts of RF energy into a laser-like beam, onto a tiny point, a long distance away. We're not talking about search-lights here.

        It seems a fleet of drones would have to *linger* over every square foot of a territory (for a few seconds at least) to determine if any Starlink dishes are currently operating on the ground, and take even longer to pin-point the origin. The higher the drones go, the more area there is to cover. Iranians would simply need to leave their terminals powered-off most of the time, and visually search for drones before turning them on, briefly.

        Iran may be able to optimize the search by using the wider down-link beam to hone-in on active areas, to start searching for ground stations. But that's not easy. With old-fashioned wide broadcasts you don't narrow down the search area much, and with very narrow beams (supposedly 1.5 degrees) you again have to be rather nearly between the ground station and the specific satellite it's currently accessing to pick-up a signal. Somewhere in-between those two extremes might be useful for Iran's search for surreptitious users.

        Interestingly, the solid (non-mesh) style satellite dishes are equally good at focusing *sound* as they are RF energy, and drones certainly don't operate silently. Perhaps there's an opportunity to add a microphone to Starlink terminals, and automatically cut-off RF transmissions when a noisy object is approaching your line-of-sight path.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "what happens then....."

      Those people will be lucky if they're seen at a trial before sentence is applied. I get the feeling that some that we hear about in these countries that have been accused of many dastardly crimes are the recipients of a whole load of scapegoating to cover the sins of the elite and better connected.

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