This summer, a radio navigation research team from The University of Texas at Austin set out to discover whether they could subtly coerce a 213-foot yacht off its course, using a custom-made GPS device.
Led by assistant professor Todd Humphreys of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering, the team was able to successfully spoof an $80 million private yacht using the world’s first openly acknowledged GPS spoofing device. Spoofing is a technique that creates false civil GPS signals to gain control of a vessel’s GPS receivers. The purpose of the experiment was to measure the difficulty of carrying out a spoofing attack at sea and to determine how easily sensors in the ship’s command room could identify the threat.
The researchers hope their demonstration will shed light on the perils of navigation attacks, serving as evidence that spoofing is a serious threat to marine vessels and other forms of transportation. Last year, Humphreys and a group of students led the first public capture of a GPS-guided unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, using a GPS device created by Humphreys and his students.
“With 90 percent of the world’s freight moving across the seas and a great deal of the world’s human transportation going across the skies, we have to gain a better understanding of the broader implications of GPS spoofing,” Humphreys said. “I didn’t know, until we performed this experiment, just how possible it is to spoof a marine vessel and how difficult it is to detect this attack.”
In June, the team was invited aboard the yacht, called the White Rose of Drachs, while it traveled from Monaco to Rhodes, Greece, on the Mediterranean Sea. The experiment took place about 30 miles off the coast of Italy as the yacht sailed in international waters.
From the White Rose’s upper deck, graduate students Jahshan Bhatti and Ken Pesyna broadcasted a faint ensemble of civil GPS signals from their spoofing device — a blue box about the size of a briefcase — toward the ship’s two GPS antennas. The team’s counterfeit signals slowly overpowered the authentic GPS signals until they ultimately obtained control of the ship’s navigation system.
Unlike GPS signal blocking or jamming, spoofing triggers no alarms on the ship’s navigation equipment. To the ship’s GPS devices, the team’s false signals were indistinguishable from authentic signals, allowing the spoofing attack to happen covertly.
Once control of the ship’s navigation system was gained, the team’s strategy was to coerce the ship onto a new course using subtle maneuvers that positioned the yacht a few degrees off its original course. Once a location discrepancy was reported by the ship’s navigation system, the crew initiated a course correction. In reality, each course correction was setting the ship slightly off its course line. Inside the yacht’s command room, an electronic chart showed its progress along a fixed line, but in its wake there was a pronounced curve showing that the ship had turned.
“The ship actually turned and we could all feel it, but the chart display and the crew saw only a straight line,” Humphreys said.
The Latest on: GPS spoofing
- Vulnerability in fully patched Android phones under active attack by bank thieveson December 2, 2019 at 1:10 pm
Researchers with Lookout, a mobile security provider and a Promon partner, reported last week that they found 36 apps exploiting the spoofing vulnerability ... Access to text messages, photos, the ...
- Can hundreds of unrelated satellites create a GPS backup?on November 29, 2019 at 6:05 am
The head of the Space Development Agency wants to use proliferated low-Earth orbit satellites for navigation when GPS is unavailable. As adversaries develop tools that can jam or spoof Global ...
- New Type Of GPS Spoofing Attack In China Creates "Crop Circles" Of False Location Dataon November 22, 2019 at 12:34 pm
A new type of GPS spoofing technology, which may belong to the Chinese government, appears to have been impacting shipping in and around China's Port of Shanghai for more than a year. Unlike previous ...
- GPS Spoofing A New Type Of Attack Has Been Detectedon November 21, 2019 at 11:30 pm
A worrying new GPS Spoofing method has been detected being used in Shanghai, China and it has everyone worried. Nobody knows who is behind the attacks but the suspicion is the technology is so ...
- Mysteries of the Middle East Gulf: proxies, drones and spoofingon November 21, 2019 at 7:45 am
The company provides alerts, scenarios and advice, but not boots on the ground. When it comes to GPS spoofing, Mr Kragh notes it is a challenge for crews: “It can happen if the crew does not pay ...
- China's Mysterious Spoofed GPS "Crop Circle" Has Something Interesting At Its Centeron November 20, 2019 at 2:20 am
I certainly have my own ideas, but we'll save those for another day. The eerie patterns are unlike anything experts have seen in previous GPS spoofing incidents, which have typically pointed to a ...
- Could the world cope if GPS stopped working?on November 18, 2019 at 6:24 pm
One big appeal of eLoran is its signals are stronger. By the time GPS signals have made their 20,000km (12,000-mile) journey to Earth, they're extremely weak - which makes them easy to jam, or to ...
- Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghaion November 15, 2019 at 1:59 am
Now, new research and previously unseen data show that the Manukai, and thousands of other vessels in Shanghai over the last year, are falling victim to a mysterious new weapon that is able to spoof ...
- Spies and lies: Smartphone savvy kids are learning how to trick their parents using GPS locationson November 13, 2019 at 1:47 am
"I do know there are outside sources that could be a distraction to them," she said. One of those sources is YouTube, which is covered with videos showing anyone how to spoof a GPS location. "They are ...
- Russia Is Trying to Jam the Air Force's F-35 Radar in Syriaon November 11, 2019 at 4:39 pm
Israeli sources “are increasingly convinced” that three weeks of GPS disruptions for civilian flights are a side effect of Russian jamming and spoofing in Syria, Breaking Defense reported.
via Google News and Bing News