Is Satellite Internet Safe?

By Andrew Latham

Satellite broadband connections stream data directly from satellites to your computer.
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Safety is relative. That applies to driving a car, walking along the street or to the Internet connection you choose. Just as you can choose the neighborhood you decide to walk through, and the speed at which you drive to reduce risks, the type of Internet connection you have and the safety measures you take can increase or reduce your online safety. A useful way to assess the safety of satellite Internet connections is to compare it with other available technologies.

Satellite vs. Dial-Up

In most cases, it is not really fair to compare a high-speed Internet connection such as satellite broadband with dial-up. Dial-up is much slower and less reliable than broadband technologies that are not restricted to the voice frequency spectrum to transmit information. As far as Internet security goes, however, dial-up more than holds its own. The weaknesses of dial-up: low-speed and the need for discrete connections every time you want to go online, become its strengths. This is because broadband technologies, such as satellite, with their high-speed data transfer and always-connected capabilities make it easier and more attractive for hackers to target them.

Satellite vs. Cable Modems

The growth of telecommunication corporations that offer communication and entertainment packages that combine Cable TV, Internet and phone at discount prices, have made cable modem connections increasingly popular. Cable modem connections are also faster than conventional satellite connections. The trade-off is that cable modem connections do not have a dedicated link to the Internet, but must share their connection with other users in the neighborhood. This creates a local area network, LAN, between users, which makes it much easier for hackers to use packet sniffers to capture information transmitted over a cable modem in the same neighborhood.

Satellite vs. DSL

Satellite provides a similar level of safety as DSL. DSL is potentially faster than satellite connections but because DSL providers usually cap the rate of data transfer to 1.5 Mbps, the speed is comparable. Both DSL and satellite connections use a dedicated link to the Internet and therefore are safer than technologies that share the connection with other users. Satellite broadband's direct link to orbiting satellites without any link to cable infrastructure actually makes it harder for hackers to intercept satellite connections unless they are in close proximity to the user's satellite dish.

Benefits and Disadvantages

Satellite connections are not only safer than most other broadband connections but also the only high-speed Internet option for users who live in isolated or rural areas, who do not have access to cable and DSL. On the other hand, satellite provides a slower connection and providers often limit the bandwidth you can use to avoid high-volume users from slowing things down for other users. This means heavy Internet users who regularly download large files may struggle to keep within their quota with satellite broadband. Ironically, the lower speed and restricted actually make it a less attractive connection for hackers to target.