Image: NASA

Blog Editor’s note: Interesting interview with Guy Buesnel from Spirent.  Readers may find this bit from the article particularly interesting:

“With spoofing, even if a system is not a target, even if the attack does not fully succeed in taking over a receiver, we see that receivers exposed to a mixture of faked and authentic GNSS signals behave in unexpected and unpredictable ways.”

We hate it when we are going somewhere and our GNSS receiver beahves in ‘unexpected and unpredictable ways’ – don’t you?  Especially if we are flying. 

Full disclosure, Spirent is a corporate supporter of RNTF and Guy is a member of our International Advisory Committee.

GNSS Access is the Mainstay of Modern World

In the wake of increasing spoofing and jamming attacks, all sectors dependent on GNSS could be at risk, but that does not mean that we are at risk, explains Guy Buesnel, PNT Security Technologist at Spirent Communications.

By Meenal Dhande

What are the reasons for increasing spoofing and jamming attacks, and what’s the economic impact of such attacks?

This is a tricky question to answer. Of the many reasons, availability and reduced cost of equipment is one of the main reasons. The technology revolution has resulted in low-cost systems such as software-defined-radios (SDRs). The code to program SDRs is available online, and even someone with practically no knowledge of GNSS can quickly build a system capable of transmitting fake signals for less than £500. The increasing commercial applications are leading to more GNSS interference and spoofing — often collaterally. The use of GNSS to monitor activities is driving some sections in society to take counter measures to protect their privacy.

Then there are criminal activities — sophisticated criminals are always on the lookout for high-valued opportunities and routinely use high-tech solutions if it gives them an edge. GNSS jamming and spoofing can give them a big advantage at a relatively low cost. For example, criminals try to defraud service providers such as Uber using GPS spoofing to create fake rides, or extend a short trip. In 2018, I took a taxi in London and noticed a cigarette lighter jammer plugged in the front of the cab. I asked the driver why he was using it, and he told me that he is trying to stop other Uber drivers from meeting up with their rides at the train station. As far as the economic impact of such attacks is concerned, while it is difficult to come up with a definite number, a 2017 UK government report estimated the cost to the economy of a five-day GNSS outage at £5.2 billion.

Different sectors use GNSS in different ways. Does that mean we are all at risk?