Maritime GPS Spoofing

Spoofing is defined as creating false signals which look legitimate.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has 24 satellites circling planet Earth. These satellites keep the international maritime industry afloat.

The International Maritime Organization says a staggering 80% of global trade is moved by the maritime industry at sea.

Maritime GPS Spoofing

Todd Humphrey’s team at the University of Texas (Austin, TX), using the world’s first openly acknowledged GPS spoofing device, were able to spoof an 213 foot long $80 million dollar yacht and lead it off course.

The UT students broadcasted a faint series 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.

Maritime GPS Spoofing

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 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. 

After several such maneuvers, the yacht had been tricked onto a parallel track hundreds of meters from its intended one the team had successfully spoofed the ship.

 

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