One of the world’s foremost academic experts in GPS spoofing—University of Texas assistant professor Todd Humphreys—released a short video on Monday showing how he and his students deceived the GPS equipment aboard an expensive superyacht.Humphreys conducted the test in the
Ionian Sea in late June 2013 and early July 2013 with the full consent of the “White Rose of Drachs” yacht captain. His work shows just how vulnerable and relatively easy it is to send out a false GPS signal and trick the on-board receiver into believing it.
“What we did was out in the open. It was against a live vehicle, a vessel—an $80 million superyacht, controlling it with a $2,000 box,” he told Ars. “This is unprecedented. This has never been shown in this kind of demonstration. That’s what's so sinister about the attack that we did. There were no alarms on the bridge. The GPS receiver showed a strong signal the whole time. You just need to have approximate line of sight visibility. Let’s say you had an unmanned drone. You could do it from 20 to 30 kilometers away, or on the ocean you could do two to three kilometers.”
In this case, Humphreys' student sent out the spoofed signal from onboard the ship itself. All GPS signals are sent from satellites to Earth without any authentication or encryption. So Humphreys is using a small software radio device to essentially fool the on-board receiver into listening to his fake signal, rather than the authentic one. GPS, in its civilian form, is provided for free, globally, by the American military GPS Directorate.