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‘Spoofed’ GPS signals can be countered, researchers show


(Phys.org) – From cars to commercial airplanes to military drones, global positioning system (GPS) technology is everywhere — and Cornell researchers have known for years that it can be hacked, or as they call it, “spoofed.” The best defense, they say, is to create countermeasures that unscrupulous GPS spoofers can’t deceive.
Researchers led by Mark Psiaki, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, got to test their latest protections against GPS spoofing during a Department of Homeland Security-sponsored demonstration last month in the New Mexico desert at the White Sands Missile Range. The much-publicized June 19 demo of a mini helicopter’s GPS signal being spoofed was led by Todd Humphreys, Ph.D. ’08, now an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin. Humphreys, who designed a sophisticated GPS spoofing system as an outgrowth of his Cornell Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies, also testified before Congress July 19 on the threat of GPS spoofing. GPS is a navigation and timing system of satellites that circle Earth and transmit signals to receivers on land, sea and air to provide precise information on the receivers’ locations and clock offsets. Lesser known is its ubiquitous presence in, for example, commercial and military aircraft navigation, control of the power grid, cell phone towers and even automated stock trades. Spoofing is the transmission of false GPS signals that receivers accept as authentic ones, theoretically allowing hackers to gain control over planes, vehicles or other devices that rely on GPS for navigation or timing.

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