What Is GPS Spoofing?

GPS spoofing is also used to refer to smartphone apps which may influence the phones location data, and to cyberattacks on networked systems which depend on GPS data. GPS spoofing is an attack whereby a radio transmitter located close to a target is used to interfere with the valid GPS signal. Typically, a GPS spoofing attack is carried out when the attacker uses a radio transmitter to send a fake GPS signal to a receivers antenna to supplant the original signal coming from a satellite. GPS spoofing occurs when the attacker imitates the real GPS signal, overriding it with a fake, but stronger, signal coming from a satellite.

Most navigation systems are designed to use the strongest GPS signal, and the fake GPS signal is overriding the weakest, but legal, satellite signal. GPS spoofing works best when an adversary can approach an antenna and clobber the legitimate GPS signals coming from orbiting satellites. Combating spoofing requires that a GPS receiver is capable of distinguishing between the spoofed signals and the mix of the legitimate, forged signals.

Someone conducting a spoofing attack is trying to trick the GPS receiver by transmitting incorrect signals that are disguised as normal ones. The resulting spoofing signals provide the receiver with altered location, navigation, or time. As long as a receiver who is being targeted cannot distinguish the legitimate from spoofed signal, an attack may be undetected.

Once the GPS receiver has marked the signal as spoofed, GPS may drop it from its location-calculation process. From there, a transmitter will imitate the signal and fool a devices GPS receiver into showing another location. With some math and comparing several of these signals (at least three, but more is better), the GPS receiver is able to pinpoint its exact position in relation to multiple satellite systems.

Once the satellite signal is marked as fake, it can be excluded from position calculations. By tampering with the satellite signal, GPS spoofing may cause your device to falsely report location. Smartphone owners can fool their GPS by downloading third-party apps, which trick other apps into thinking your device is somewhere other than where it was originally located.

Individuals can install GPS spoofing apps on their Android phones for free, in order to disguise their location and maintain privacy. Many security-based organizations also use GPS spoofing for the protection of costly assets, as well as for keeping the locations of valuable clients a secret. When trucks use GPS signals to monitor and communicate their locations, criminals may also employ GPS spoofing to conceal a trucks location. An example is where criminals use spoofing of GPS signals to divert the truck to a location where the load could be stolen, and concealing the trucks location as this happens.

When someone uses a radio transmitter to send a false GPS signal to the receiving antenna in order to counteract the signal from the legitimate GPS satellite, it is known as GPS spoofing. In the most common example, the attacker will place the broadcast antenna and aim it at a targeted GPS receiver antenna in order to counter GPS signals from nearby buildings, ships, or planes. In a GPS deception attack, a radio transmitter on land simulates the signal from the Global Positioning System with greater signal power than the real system can produce, effectively replacing real GPS signals with the forged signal. GPS spoofing is a more insidious form of attack, involving a deliberate imitation of the shape of a GPS satellites transmission, fooling a receiver into believing it has sent the intended message.

GPS spoofing is a term given to attacks where hackers send out signals similar to those of a GPS satellite, and encode them in such a way as to fool receivers into thinking that they are somewhere else instead of where they are. GPS spoofing can be used by criminals to hide fraud-like activities such as altering evidence or records following a crime, or by falsifying the victims cell phone signal once kidnapped to prevent tracking. To avoid being tracked by movements and conceal their location, many individuals use spoofing to generate a false GPS location in order to avoid apps accurately tracking their movements. GPS spoofing, at its most basic form (sometimes called Denial-of-Service spoofing), involves sending a location message to a GPS receiver that is demonstrably fake (it could, for example, inform a boat at sea that it is currently located on land).

An even subtler, complex form of GPS spoofing, deception spoofing, involves hijacking GPS systems by sending them initially correct location information (so the spoofing is not immediately apparent), then changing the sent information very slowly to, say, pull ships off course in hostile waters, or putting the ship on an uninhabited beach. While the purpose of spoofing is to conceal the activity so that the targeted receiver does not know something is wrong, spoofing a GPS causes an obvious intervention. Spoofing and jamming both require an adversary who is able to recreate signals from more than one satellite and broadcast it to the specific targeted receiver. Anti-jamming and anti-spoofing systems can discriminate between real GPS signals and those of the jammers and spoofers, which allows the location and time services of GPS to remain operational even when attacked.

A totally unprotected GPS or GNSS receiver is vulnerable to attacks of even the most basic magnitude, but thankfully, various protected receivers can warn individuals and organizations about spoofing. Secured receivers, on the other hand, can detect spoofing by looking for anomalies in signals, or using signals designed to thwart spoofing, like Galileo OS-NMA and E6, or GPS Military Code. With tricks, GPS spoofers overwhelm weaker GNSS signals, helping them hack the system and show false coordinates. Whereas a GPS spoofer tricks a navigation system by feeding it fake signals, a GPS jammer shuts down a navigation system completely.

This post was proofread with Grammarly.

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