The superyatch, White Rose. Photo: The University of Texas at Austin
A radio navigation research team from the University of Texas at Austin set out this summer to subtly coerce a 213-foot superyacht off its course using a custom-made GPS device and a technique known as spoofing.
Led by assistant professor Todd Humphreys of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering, the team of mechanical engineering students was able to successfully spoof an $80 million private yacht using the world’s first openly acknowledged GPS spoofing device.
Spoofing is a technique that creates an overpowering false GPS signal to gain control of a vessel’s GPS receivers. Unlike GPS signal blocking or jamming, spoofing triggers no alarms on the ship’s navigation equipment and is essentially indistinguishable from authentic signals. Here’s how they did it:
The researchers hope their demonstration will shed some light on some of the perils of navigation attacks, serving as evidence that spoofing is a serious threat to vessels and other forms of transportation.
“With 90 percent of the world’s freight moving across the seas and a great deal of the world’s human transportation going across the skies, we have to gain a better understanding of the broader implications of GPS spoofing,” Humphreys said. “I didn’t know, until we performed this experiment, just how possible it is to spoof a marine vessel and how difficult it is to detect this attack.”
More on the experiment can be found at the Cockrell School of Engineering website and a more detailed video below:
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