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College Students Hijack $80 Million Yacht With GPS Signal Spoofing 140

Posted by samzenpus
from the made-a-wrong-turn-in-albuquerque dept.
colinneagle writes "A team of students at the University of Texas at Austin built and successfully tested a custom GPS spoofing device to remotely redirect an $80 million yacht onto a different route. The project was completed with the permission of the yacht's owners in the Mediterranean Sea this past June. Because the yacht's crew relies entirely on GPS signal for direction, the students were able to lead the yacht onto a different course without the knowledge of anyone on-board. The GPS spoofing device essentially over-powered all other GPS signals using until the spoofed signal was the only one that the yacht followed. The team then used the GPS spoofing device to convince the ship's crew to redirect onto a different route voluntarily. By changing the signal on the spoofing device, the students led the crew to believe that the ship was drifting off-course to the left. In response, the crew steered the ship to the right, thinking that it would get the ship back on course, when it actually brought the ship off the course entirely."

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College Students Hijack $80 Million Yacht With GPS Signal Spoofing

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    • I was about to post that myself. A duplicate from Friday. Come on folks, if a couple of casual readers can immediately spot a duplicate post, can't the editors? This has gotten ridiculous.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Editors?

        Are you new here?

        slashdot has never had any editors, they have people that click on things randomly. Think million monkeys on a million keyboards.

    • Re:Dupe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RedBear (207369) <redbear&redbearnet,com> on Monday July 29, 2013 @05:11PM (#44417069) Homepage

      It may be a dupe, but I distinctly remember reading post after post on that article from apparently knowledgeable people explaining in great detail how this whole "GPS spoofing" thing was supposedly nearly impossible or at least highly impractical. I am very much interested in having someone explain how these people have managed to accomplish something that is supposedly not doable.

      Seems to me this represents a valid threat to the safety of using civil GPS navigation systems, on land or at sea. Most of the posts on the previous article seemed to indicate that GPS is NOT threatened at all. I am unable to rectify these two opposing points of view without further input from knowledgeable people.

      • Re:Dupe (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday July 29, 2013 @05:21PM (#44417145) Homepage

        It is taking advantage of a poor GPS antenna design. IF the GPS antenna was shielded from ground signals (it would also create a smaller circle of sky to see, but that is not a problem with the number of birds up there) this spoof would have failed unless they were in an aircraft above the yacht.

        • by sjames (1099)

          The need for a balloon to accomplish the task isn't that much of a comfort really.

        • by MiG82au (2594721)
          "Shielded". You say that as if directional antennas are an on or off thing. GPS signals are very weak and in this case the false signal is within throwing distance of the antenna. 60 dB would be a great (unobtainable even?) ratio between above and underneath, and yet mere 1 W signal would overwhelm the real one at that ratio.
        • Shielding is an easy answer but very complicated to implement without degrading the signal under certain circumstances. It will take more serious spoofing threats to redesign the common shipboard GPS antennas.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          IF the GPS antenna was shielded from ground signals (it would also create a smaller circle of sky to see, but that is not a problem with the number of birds up there)

          Sure it is. If you're surrounded by several massive bad weather formations you might not be able to see all the satellites. You might only be able to see a few of them. If some of them are close to the horizon, your magical antenna just blew your chances to see them underneath a storm.

          If you had three antennas, one fore, one aft, and one up high, it would substantially increase the difficulty of mounting a spoofing attack without detection. This would increase the cost but not decrease utility.

      • Re:Dupe (Score:5, Informative)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Monday July 29, 2013 @05:46PM (#44417333)

        It may be a dupe, but I distinctly remember reading post after post on that article from apparently knowledgeable people explaining in great detail how this whole "GPS spoofing" thing was supposedly nearly impossible or at least highly impractical. I am very much interested in having someone explain how these people have managed to accomplish something that is supposedly not doable.

        Seems to me this represents a valid threat to the safety of using civil GPS navigation systems, on land or at sea. Most of the posts on the previous article seemed to indicate that GPS is NOT threatened at all. I am unable to rectify these two opposing points of view without further input from knowledgeable people.

        Except well, you have to override the receiver of all satellites it can see. Like here, they had to overpower the GPS satellites (it's not hard), but they also had to maintain the lock.

        It's a lot more difficult If you want to misdirect a whole fleet of vehicles because the satellite signal has to follow everyone and in a sensible fashion. If you really wanted to take down GPS, it's far easier to just do a blanket jamming of it than to try to follow each and every vehicle you want to misdirect and aim the antenna at them.

        GPS works by sending a timing pulse from the satellite to the ground - the receiver gets 3 or 4 of these timing pulses, correlates them to figure out how far each satellite is and then uses the spheres to find its location. Each receiver should generally come to a unique solution for position (because well, no two objects can occupy the same space).

        If you broadcast this fake signal out, eventually someone will notice when their GPS suddenly gets a fix hundreds of meters away from them (each unit gets a slightly different signal from the satellite - when they all get the same signal, they all show the same location,). So it works great if you're in a fleet of trucks following some route, but if you're a bit further spaced out, the solution doesn't work so well and each will need its own antenna and transmitter to come up with plausible location information.

        And that's the problem - it doesn't scale. The technique works if you want to misdirect a ship, a drone, a plane, or whatever, but to misdirect multiple requires multiple transmitters in order to send plausible yet fake data to each individual unit. It still is far easier to simply broadcast garbage on the GPS band so no GPS receiver can get a lock.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The story was that a single vanilla GPS receiver could be spoofed by providing it with a louder signal which overrides the real signal from the satellite constellation.
        Such a signal can be provided by GPS test equipment which is designed to create such a signal for use in a lab.

        There is probably no reason the change the GPS system to 'fix' this.
        Instead, when it matters, there are ways to harden the GPS receiver to prevent this from causing harm.
        Use directional ant

      • by Natales (182136)
        Particularly bad timing since just today the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that foreign airlines are now asked to use GPS for landings at SFO [sfgate.com]. What could possibly go wrong?
      • by eyenot (102141)

        Here, let me help you by offering a spoof of knowledgeable input in an effort to misguide you and hijack your POV rectification.

        What this really amounts to is terrorism. See, if it can be done then terrorists can and will do it -- specifically, they'll do it to you, straight at you. Like KAPOW!

        So we'll need to police the high seas with constant vigilance. But we can't allow the enemy (that's the terrorists) to identify the anti-terrorism force. Or they'll use the terrorism on the anti-terrorists and it'll b

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday July 29, 2013 @04:51PM (#44416811)

    and that was a step up to the military ones.

    • Was just about to post this *shakes tiny fist*

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Inventor: "I've invented a teleporter capable of sending living humans thousands of miles at the speed of light!"
      Slashdot: "phht, Star Trek did that in the 60's"

      reality != fiction.

    • That was using a communications satellite and a stolen, top secret, "GPS encoder"...outside their $3000 budget, I'd wager.
  • Well, Duh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Monday July 29, 2013 @04:52PM (#44416829)

    Of course you can spoof wireless signals, that is why I ran cat6 to my GPS sats. Even if a solar EMP thing destroys the circuitry I can get a pretty good approximation from the slack in the cable.

  • kinda like how the Asiana pilots should've learned basic flying skills and not rely on auto-throttle all the time.

    Or like how our school districts want to buy an iPad for every student even though they can't read or memorize a basic multiplication table.

  • Right turn ahead to an dead end.

  • I think we're going to be okay because this is illegal. It doesn't matter that it was done far away from Texas, US laws apply everywhere.

  • It seems that it is basically the same technology to be used on a 700€ rowboat.
  • So the value of the yacht is a critical value in this experiment, If I only buy an $8 million dollar yacht I will be immune?

    We have seen that over reliance on GPS is a problem. I have lead astray following Google maps using GPS. Although I can imagine some applications in hijacking oil tankers and the like, I would hope that such vessels would have secondary systems.

    I can see this as a countermeasure against drones.

    • by jodosh (1260096)
      Normally GPS issues that people face aren't problems with the GPS but rather with the mapping data used. The GPS is giving good data, but the maps are out of date or incorrect and lead you the wrong way. Notable exceptions to this would be in places like New York, where the large buildings cause multipath issues and the GPS module doesn't have good data.
      • by PRMan (959735)
        As a person who corrects GPS data all day long I can assure you that the GPS does NOT always give good data. There are many zeroes and astronomical values to ignore.
        • by jodosh (1260096)
          Naturally the RAW data from a GPS module will be very noisy and good software/firmware needs to be written to overcome the horrible SNR that will be present. However the issue that the Fermion was referring to, that google maps has led him astray, is more than likely an issue with the map data and not the GPS location calculated by the module. (with the notable exception of being in a place like NYC.)
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Yes, this only works against high dollar boats because their GPS gear is diamond encrusted and plated in gold.

      The gold plating is the key to the whole thing.

  • And spend the money on it BEFORE you install the jacuzzi.

  • Not a skipper, but I do fly. If I was on the bridge, at some point I would have noticed that the Magnetic compass heading was not matching the GPS heading.

    There are many different GPS-like systems available now. Glonass is the Russian version and has been available for a long time. Also the EU has Galileo coming on line real soon now. Also heard about both China and India developing their own. Units that can rely on multiple sources would definitely be harder to spoof.

    If you feared that you were under GPS spoof attack while using the GPS on your phone, you could fairly easily detect this by writing an app that compares the GPS heading with your magnetic heading.
    • Not a skipper, but I do fly. If I was on the bridge, at some point I would have noticed that the Magnetic compass heading was not matching the GPS heading.
       

      With currents and winds pushing yer ship around it rarely does. If done subtly enough it may well have been difficult to catch even if someone had been paying attention.

      • by Bucc5062 (856482)

        Speaking as a long time sailor, you can average a heading when the seas are rough. Basically I know I want to be on a 20 heading, but waves are tossing me around between 260 and 280, but I keep a general course in mind. Even a GPS system (non-spoofed) will move a bit in rougher seas. Bear in mind this relates to smaller boats. Yachts, large vessels tend to not swing so much so matching compass heading to GPS as a cross check works.

        I commented on the other post a similar thought, that spoofing a GPS for

        • Back in the before times, I was on a flight to England. I asked if I could visit the cockpit. While there (they have a fabulous view, by the way), they showed me the navigation console. It showed three positions: Inertial guidance, GPS, and VOR? If one was seriously out of whack with the others, it would have been readily apparent. Ships too have multiple nav systems.
          • by Bucc5062 (856482)

            And while they did not point it out, they still had a compass somewhere on the panel. Lucky to get that view. Just once I had a chance to sit up front in a DC-8 and it was amazing.

    • On a phone, I doubt the magnetic heading is accurate enough.
    • by MiG82au (2594721)
      Presumably you know the difference between heading and track then, and can tell me which device gives which. And then you'll realise that you actually wouldn't have noticed anything.
  • Not only are (some) rooted people spoofing in the Ingress game, now you can do it with overriding the GPS signals.

  • Presumably the person doing the spoofing would be piloting blind since their GPS would be effected just as much as the target's GPS?

    If so then it seems like GPS spoofing would be of limited usefulness unless you just wanted a ship or plane or whatever to get lost and expend all it's fuel in the process.

    • by Calydor (739835)

      GPS is not the only way of navigating at sea. Compass, for instance, would be a quick and easy way of making sure you are on course yourself.

      There is also a difference between GPS blocking and GPS spoofing. If you are spoofing, and you know that you are shifting the signal by, say 30 degrees west, then you can make corrections to your own course based on that knowledge.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Monday July 29, 2013 @05:29PM (#44417213)

    I think it's time for a revision to the L2C, L1C and L5 civilian GPS specifications. Right now all signals, if/when present (some are at demo stage only), transmit a default message with no navigational data. It seems to me that messages on those signals should use public cryptography techniques to verify the authenticity and integrity of navigational data. It is feasible to do so, since L2C, L5 and L1C all use a packetized format and to-spec receivers must ignore unknown packets. Thus a cryptographic signature packet can be added in a fully backwards-compatible fashion. Properly done, this prevents spoofing of the navigational data, including preventing replay attacks. It should be sufficient to pretty much end spoofing once and for all.

    • I think it's time for a revision to the L2C, L1C and L5 civilian GPS specifications.
      It seems to me that messages on those signals should use public cryptography techniques to verify the authenticity and integrity of navigational data. ...
      It should be sufficient to pretty much end spoofing once and for all.

      You don't need to be able to generate false signals to defeat GPS. Fixes are based on time of flight of signals. Simply altering propogation delay is sufficient.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Except that when you're seeing more than the minimum amount of satellites, there are simple feasibility checks that will trigger if you push the target too far off. In open space, like on sea, you can detect such spoofing if it's off by merely 50m or so. Remember that the ephemerides tell you where the satellites are supposed to be at any time. If you've got redundant signals, like you most often do, there are no solutions to changes in the signals that will still be self-consistent, IIRC. Some solutions, i

  • Lends a whole new meaning to the term computer piracy. Yarr.

  • If the answer is yes then the students' device may be a useful countermeasure. Other munitions and military airplanes may also be guided by GPS. I would guess there's some kind of encryption in military applications, but not sure. Imagine a shooting war using GPS guided military things and the opposition had one of these countermeasure devices and sent the munitions back to where they came from. So much for high tech guidance of military equipment.
  • Any helmsman worth his salt would have noticed a change in the direction of the swell, the sun, moon, stars, compass, so I would say the crew was not standing a good watch if they weren't properly observing their environment.
  • Man given wrong map goes to wrong place. Full story at 11.

    GPS spoofing is interesting, sure. But it ain't new, and the application here isn't exactly a mind-blowing revelation of the technique's potential...
  • Ground breaking..

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fat chance trying such a trick with Long John Silver aboard!

  • I come fer yer booty!! And if ye be trying to steer clear of me piratey waters, Aye'll call the GPS sirens on ye!!
  • Iran hijacked a US drone [wikipedia.org] back in 2011 doing this
  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @05:25AM (#44421033)

    Yes, the crew followed the GPS, like good little auomatons. But being a sailor, especially a navigator or quartermaster is more than just reading a GPS.

    If the bridge crew is not competent enough to read a compass nor experienced enough to look at the sky and realize that something was wrong, they shouldn't be entrusted to control anything more experienced than a dinghy. There's this really cool gadget that, with a little work, tells you almost exactly where you are at. It's called a sextant. Put that together with a decent clock and there's no reason to be sailing in the wrong direction.

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