Up until now, many users have assumed that satellite communications are intrinsically secure. Evidently, German researchers at Ruhr University Bochum assert that they have been able to break the encryption used to protect certain civilian satellite communications. According to the researchers, inexpensive computer equipment can be used to decipher a satellite call in around 30 minutes, and more powerful computers could potentially eavesdrop on active satellite phone voice calls.
The encryption algorithms that were allegedly broken are the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) GMR-1 and GMR-2 algorithms which are encryption standards used by various satellite phone providers including Thuraya.
According to a February 8, 2012 article in NetworkWorld, the researchers studied the Thuraya SO-2510. For more information on this story, see the Feb 3, 2012 article in The Telegraph or the Feb 8, 2012 article in NetworkWorld.