Friday, December 16, 2011

Did Iran capture the drone by hacking its GPS?

There's a fascinating report in today's Christian Science Monitor speculating that Iran used vulnerabilities in the drone's GPS technology to simply convince the drone to land in Iran:

"GPS signals are weak and can be easily outpunched [overridden] by poorly controlled signals from television towers, devices such as laptops and MP3 players, or even mobile satellite services," Andrew Dempster, a professor from the University of New South Wales School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems, told a March conference on GPS vulnerability in Australia.

"This is not only a significant hazard for military, industrial, and civilian transport and communication systems, but criminals have worked out how they can jam GPS," he says.

The US military has sought for years to fortify or find alternatives to the GPS system of satellites, which are used for both military and civilian purposes. In 2003, a “Vulnerability Assessment Team” at Los Alamos National Laboratory published research explaining how weak GPS signals were easily overwhelmed with a stronger local signal.

“A more pernicious attack involves feeding the GPS receiver fake GPS signals so that it believes it is located somewhere in space and time that it is not,” reads the Los Alamos report. “In a sophisticated spoofing attack, the adversary would send a false signal reporting the moving target’s true position and then gradually walk the target to a false position.”

Here's the link to the ten-year-old Los Alamos National Laborary report: GPS Spoofing Countermeasures, which in turn has references to a number of other references to read.

Very interesting stuff.

Given that location-based devices have become so prevalent in our lives (smartphones, cars, etc.), it's interesting to contemplate how we might improve the reliability and trustworthiness of the location awareness of our automated assistants. The guys over at SpiderLabs Anterior had some great articles on this recently:

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