Come on folks, this is a serious news article :-)
I've spent a tremendous amount of time listening to these bootleggers on the FLTSATCOM satellites. It is rather easy for them (the Brazilians and others) to modify a amateur radio or other transmitters to use these satellites.
Basically, these satellites work by listening on one frequency (an uplink), and rebroadcasting what they hear over a specified frequency bandwidth to listeners (a downlink). The uplink and downlink frequencies are well known and published across many mediums - including Mil-Std documents which specify how terminals should interact with these satellites.
I published a spectrum analysis article on this very topic here (shameless plus):
This method of communication is actually very secure for the US Military - since they rarely use clear voice on these transponders - meaning, they encrypt all transmissions to and from.
Now, an open repeater, in Geospacial orbit, provides a set of repeaters for anyone to use... either the US military (which they still actively use) - or others who have equipment that can transmit to, and reiceve from.
For those that are dismayed by this approach, understand that when this technology was developed, security by obscurity was a common approach even for military agencies. It wasn't feasible even 10 years ago to "authenticate" use access to open satellite transponders.