GPS Spoofing: A Growing Threat

December 30, 2018
GPS Spoofing: A Growing Threat

With today’s modern technology, long drives are a thing of the past. Traveling and navigating is as easy as typing the location into your mobile device and voila! You now have a clear path towards your destination. It’s all thanks to the good ol’ GPS (Global Positioning System). As long as you have your smartphone with you, combined with your mobile data, you’ll never get lost. No need to memorize routes and street names, just type the address and you’re good to go.

GPS Navigation services are used by billions of users around the world. With the worldwide coverage of long-range satellites orbiting the planet, you’ll definitely be safe and on track while you travel. Or so you think..

Just recently, a research team from the US and China, together with experts from Microsoft, conducted a controlled experiment, and has come up with a method to trick humans in their navigation and it was a sensational success. They have carefully devised the GPS inputs using readily available and cheap hardware to lead unsuspecting human navigators off track. This experiment worked on almost all of their human testers.

This is an alarming breakthrough, according to the researchers, since the attacks are possible against any navigation system that is GPS-enabled. Think about it for a second – almost everyone with a smartphone, couriers, people with cars, taxi services and ride-sharing services – everyone that rely heavily on GPS and location services, are at risk of becoming victimized. Not only that, the researchers were also able to incorporate their data and found out that even self-driving cars will be affected eventually.

GPS spoofing – as it was called almost a decade ago, was a real threat. It was never clear on what the real world danger is during that time but we are facing it now after only a decade. The consequences of such an attack is clear: Given the right tools, anyone can stalk anyone, anyone can get lost just by sheer misdirection, anyone can be a victim of kidnapping and other related violence by simply leading them to a location of the criminal’s preference. And there’s another irritating aspect – what if someone’s doing it for fun or pure mischief?

The key here is that almost all of the users in this modern age rely heavily on GPS navigation services. Especially in unfamiliar territories. That is the vulnerability that is being exposed here. This is in fact one of the reasons why the experiment was conducted. Our reliance in modern technology has somehow diminished our instincts and scrutiny. We can only hope that the studies and advancements to combat this threat will be available in the near future.

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