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Why GPS Spoofing is So Dangerous

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Consider agreeing to meet a friend you never had before at a café. You're already 20min late, but your GPS will get you there with confidence. But then your GPS reveals you're in another country and it's 2038. What was really happening? Your GPS was spoofed by someone.

What is GPS spoofing?

GPS spoofing is an attack whose main objective is to override the original location of a GPS-enabled device. The attacker uses a radio transmitter to transmit a fake GPS signal and interfere with nearby GPS receivers. As a result, fake GPS coordinates are shown by these phones.

Smartphone owners can spoof their GPS by downloading apps from third parties that trick other users into believing the device is not in its original location.

The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which includes GPS (the Global Positioning System), is also used to synchronize date and time across devices around the globe. And, if your computer is spoofed, it could suddenly show you've traveled to the future and back in time as well.

The Mechanism Behind GPS Spoofing

GPS spoofing attacks used to be very costly, relegating them to warfare for the most part. Why? Since GPS spoofing could confuse the enemy with the positions of vessels, aircraft, and vehicles. Although it is still being used for this purpose, it has become available to ordinary hackers since then.

All they need is an open-source portable radio signal transmitter, which can be purchased for less than $300. The GPS will find your location using Earth's orbiting satellites. They continue to transmit radio signals that are used by your GPS-enabled device to triangulate your location.

You can add more security by encrypting your online data.

The Uses of GPS Spoofing

  • Warfare. It can change ships, planes, and other vehicles ' perceived location. For example, a hacker could make a fake aircraft appear on the GPS of an aircraft so that a pilot would think that when there is no other aircraft approaching them.

  • Taxi trips. Taxi drivers can use it to falsify their location to earn more money or stand (although the trip has not been completed) or use it to disguise their location to criminal activity. To travelers, this can be a huge security risk.

  • Disruption of the house. Many building machinery is regulated by GPS navigators. Just imagine the devastating impact if it was poured in the wrong place a ton of bricks would have.

  • Geofencing. To monitoring delivery drivers and deliveries, GPS systems are used. Long distance truck drivers typically have geofening systems driven by GPS that lock the truck until it reaches its destination. Malicious actors may steal their cargo from the location of the truck.

Protecting Yourself Against GPS Spoofing

Anti-GPS spoofing software is being developed, but for the average user it may not be available (or necessary) in the near future. If you run a business, however, you should do a few more things to protect yourself:

  • If you see a sudden change in GPS coordinates and time, have a backup system available. For example, until the original link is restored, rubidium or cesium clocks can be used as backup timing systems.

  • You may want to mask the antennas of your building if you need to track vehicles, deliveries, planes or ships from an office building. Usually, fake transmissions come from closer to a satellite signal. It'd come from the ground up as well. It will prevent your building from receiving false signals by obscuring your antennas.

  • You can use machine learning and other analytics to cross-check suspicious information when you run an app or a company using GPS locations.

  • Also, you can follow our guide on how to protect yourself against a data leak.


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