$ 100 GPS jamming device plays havoc with Smartpath GPS-based airport guidance system

by 1389 on August 9, 2013

in 1389 (blog admin), airlines and aviation, secession, tech industry

CBS/NY: N.J. Man In A Jam, After Illegal GPS Device Interferes With Newark Liberty Operations

Airplane tied in a knot
Tying the system
in knots

[…]
Gary Bojczak admitted buying an illegal GPS jammer to thwart the tracking device in his company vehicle, Aiello reported.

The problem was his work took him near Newark Liberty Airport, and his GPS jammer, which available online for less than $100, interfered with a new GPS-based guidance system called Smartpath being tested at the airport.

Federal agents tracked the jamming signal to Bojczak’s truck and this week hit him with a big fine — $32,000.

“It’s a very significant issue,” attorney and aviation expert Brian Alexander told Aiello.

Alexander said the Federal Aviation Administration is worried and is pushing to expand the use of GPS in aircraft. He said inexpensive jammers could cause big problems.

“To the extent these devices are out there and illegal, they have to send a message and pursue those jammers to make sure that they’re not anywhere near the airports, not being used at the airports,” Alexander said.

The jamming incident cost Bojczak his job at Tilcon. The company said “safety is paramount — the company places a high value on the trust established with customers and neighbors. Jeopardizing that trust is unacceptable.”

No one was endangered during the GPS jamming incident, which happened during a test of the airport’s new system, Aiello reported.

Let’s take a closer look

Fining a hapless truck driver may suffice to “send a message” to casual users of GPS jammers who simply don’t want to be tailed. Arguably, if the truck belonged to Bojczak’s employer, it’s hard to defend his use of a GPS jammer.

On the other hand, those who have been plagued by stalkers or hounded by a tyrannical government may have a legitimate need to disable any GPS tracking device that may have been stealthily attached to their own vehicles.

An even bigger problem is that jihadis who intend to use a GPS jammer to create airport mayhem won’t be deterred by a fine. Seems the FAA needs to come up with better ways to secure airport guidance systems than that. And what’s the fallback plan? If someone does manage to jam the GPS guidance system, does each airport have a backup instrument landing system that would allow operations until the problem is cleared?

Fox News: GPS flaw could let terrorists hijack ships, planes

The world’s GPS system is vulnerable to hackers or terrorists who could use it to hijack ships — even commercial airliners, according to a frightening new study that exposes a huge potential hole in national security.

Using a laptop, a small antenna and an electronic GPS “spoofer” built for $3,000, GPS expert Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas took control of the sophisticated navigation system aboard an $80 million, 210-foot super-yacht in the Mediterranean Sea.

“We injected our spoofing signals into its GPS antennas and we’re basically able to control its navigation system with our spoofing signals,” Humphreys told Fox News.

By feeding counterfeit radio signals to the yacht, the UT team was able to drive the ship far off course, steer it left and right, potentially take it into treacherous waters, even put it on a collision course with another ship. All the time, the ship’s GPS system reported the vessel was calmly moving in a straight line, along its intended course. No alarms, no indication that anything was amiss.

Capt. Andrew Schofield, who invited Humphreys and his team aboard to conduct the experiment told Fox News he and his crew were stunned by the results.

“Professor Humphreys and his team did a number of attacks and basically we on the bridge were absolutely unaware of any difference,” Schofield said. “I was gobsmacked — but my entire deck team was similarly gobsmacked,” he told Fox News.

The possible consequences, according to Humphreys, are both ominous and far-reaching.

“For maritime traffic, there are big implications,” Humphreys told Fox News from the bridge of the White Rose of Drachs. “You’ve got 90 percent of the world’s cargo going across the seas. Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications we’re worried about.”

As the Costa Concordia tragically proved, a cruise ship off-course can have disastrous results. The Exxon Valdez was only narrowly off its intended track when it ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

Humphreys told Fox News the easiest and most sinister “spoof” is to slowly slide a vessel onto a parallel course. Over time, the compass might read the same heading, but the ship could be far from where the crew thinks it is.

“You’re actually moving about a kilometer off of your intended track in a parallel line and you could be running aground instead of going through the proper channel,” Humphreys said.

And because aircraft have a similar navigation system to that aboard the White Rose of Drachs, Humphreys says a commercial airliner could be “spoofed” as well.

“Going after an expensive vessel on the seas and going after a commercial airliner has a lot of parallels,” he told Fox News.

The government is aware of this critical vulnerability. Last year, Fox News reported exclusively on a more primitive experiment Humphreys conducted using a small, unmanned drone. He was able to feed “spoofing” signals into the drone’s GPS, causing it to nearly fall out of the sky. As a result, Humphreys was called before Congress to testify, and also spoke with officials from the FAA, CIA and Pentagon.

This latest experiment takes Humphreys’ research to a whole new level.

“Before we couldn’t control the UAV. We could only push it off course. This time my students have designed a closed loop controller such that they can dictate the heading of this vessel even when the vessel wants to go a different direction,” Humphreys said.

Yet the Department of Homeland Security has — according to Humphreys — been “fumbling around in the dark” on GPS security, doing little to address the threat. Texas Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee is incensed.
[…]
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