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    Russia Has An Edge In Spoofing Entire GNSS

    Russian forces now have the capability to create large GNSS denial-of-service spoofing environments, all without directly targeting a single GNSS satellite. Photograph: Phys.org
    Russia is growing a comparative advantage in spoofing capabilities to disrupt Global Navigation and Satellite Systems (GNSS), the US-based Center for Advanced Defense (C4ADS) think tank said in a report. "We detect and analyze patterns of GNSS spoofing in the Russian Federation, Crimea, and Syria that demonstrates the Russian Federation is growing a comparative advantage in GNSS spoofing capabilities to achieve tactical and strategic objectives at home and abroad", the report said on Tuesday.

    The report identified 9,883 alleged suspected instances of spoofing that affected 1,311 civilian vessel navigation systems since 2016. These activities, according to the report, "are much larger in scope, more diverse in geography, and longer in duration than any public reporting suggests to date". This comparative advantage in these capabilities, the report added, will allow Russia to counter NATO surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance technologies.

    "Russia’s continued development and deployment of systems designed to spoof GNSS and counteract NATO’s decisive advantage in C4ISR capabilities at forward operating locations in Syria and Kaliningrad presents a unique challenge to the security of critical national infrastructure", the report said. The report also claims to expose alleged use of GPS spoofing in war zones in Syria for airspace denial purposes. C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, said the report relied heavily on software services and geospatial analysis provided by Palantir, a US defense contractor. The Kremlin has previously denied using GPS to jam equipment during NATO exercises.

    Firefly is a 3U CubeSat that was developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
    Technically, GNSS spoofing (as opposed to simpler jamming) is an attempt to send false positional signals to a receiver using global satellite networks such as the US GPS, China’s Beidou, Russia’s GLONASS, and Europe’s Galileo. In recent years, there has been a flurry of small-scale reports of spoofing plus one major incident in the Black Sea in 2013 when at least 20 ships reported positioning anomalies blamed on the phenomenon. In effect, Russian forces now have the capability to create large GNSS denial-of-service spoofing environments, all without directly targeting a single GNSS satellite.

    The report also said Russia possesses capabilities of blocking the tracking system of VIP and politicians, with numerous reports of “a close correlation between movements of the Russian head of state and GNSS spoofing events.” This suggested the development of mobile jamming units. 

    Military Global Positioning System (GPS) signals have long been encrypted to prevent counterfeiting and unauthorized use. Civil GPS signals, on the other hand, were designed as an open standard, freely-accessible to all. These virtues have made civil GPS enormously popular, but the transparency and predictability of its signals give rise to a dangerous weakness: they can be easily counterfeited or spoofed. Like Monopoly money, civil GPS signals have a detailed structure but no built-in protection against counterfeiting. Civil GPS is the most popular unauthenticated protocol in the world. 

    The vulnerability of civil GPS to spoofing has serious implications for civil unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. This was demonstrated in June 2012 by a dramatic remote hijacking of a UAV at White Sands Missile Range. The demonstration was conducted by the University of Texas Radionavigation Laboratory at the invitation of the Department of Homeland Security.

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