Just like flat-screen televisions, cell phones and computers, global positioning system (GPS) technology is becoming something people can’t imagine living without. So if such a ubiquitous system were to come under attack, would we be ready?
It’s an uncomfortable question, but one that a group of Cornell researchers have considered with their research into “spoofing” GPS receivers.
GPS is a U.S. navigation system of more than 30 satellites circling Earth twice a day in specific orbits, transmitting signals to receivers on land, sea and in air to calculate their exact locations. “Spoofing,” a not-quite-technical term first coined in the radar community, is the transmission of fake GPS signals that receivers accept as authentic ones…
To demonstrate how a navigation device can be fooled, the researchers, led by Cornell professors Paul Kintner and Mark Psiaki, programmed a briefcase-size GPS receiver, used in ionospheric research, to send out fake signals.
They…described how the “phony” receiver could be placed in the proximity of a navigation device, where it would track, modify, and retransmit the signals being transmitted from the GPS satellite constellation. Gradually, the “victim” navigation device would take the counterfeit navigation signals for the real thing.
By demonstrating the vulnerability of receivers to spoofing, the researchers believe they can help devise methods to guard against such attacks.
They took the time to address their concerns in a scientific manner, responsible enough to demonstrate techniques in a close-to-real-world environment. Noting, btw, that they can overcome the several countermeasures already suggested by the Pentagon.