The Russians are hacking the GPS system to send fake navigation data to thousands of ships

The Russians are hacking the GPS system to send fake navigation data to thousands of ships

The bridge over the Kerch Strait connects Russia and Europe. Dozens of ships sailing around it were sent false information about the position by the Russians, according to a study. Google Maps / VMorozoff - Wikimapia, CC

On May 15, 2018, under sunny skies, Russian President Vladimir Putin led a bright orange truck in a convoy of construction vehicles to open the bridge over the Kerch Strait that goes from Russia to the Crimea. With & nbsp; its nearly 18 km in length, it is now the longest bridge in Europe or Russia.

While Putin was crossing the bridge, something strange happened. Satellite navigation systems in the control rooms of more than 24 ships docked nearby have suddenly begun to display false information about their location. Their GPS systems communicated to their captains that they were anchored more than 65 kilometers away - on land, at Anapa airport.

This was not a case, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a security specialized think tank known as C4ADS. It was a deliberate plan to make it difficult for anyone nearby to trace or navigate around Putin's position, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin drives a Kamaz truck at the opening of the Kerch Strait bridge in 2018. During the event, hackers partially disabled navigation systems for nearby ships. Alexander Nemenov / Pool via REUTERS

"All critical national infrastructures are based & nbsp; to a certain extent on GNSS (global navigation satellite system ed)" - and the Russians have begun to hack it "

The Russians have begun to hack the global satellite navigation system on a mass scale to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes where they were, found a study on false GNSS signals made by C4ADS.

The GNSS includes the constellation of international satellites that orbit the Earth. The US Global Positioning System, the Chinese BeiDou, the Russian Glonass and the European Galileo program are all part of the GNSS.

Your phone, law enforcement, transportation, airlines and power plants - all of which depend on time and GPS location synchronization - are all vulnerable to GNSS hacking. A 2017 report commissioned by the UK Space Agency stated that "all critical national infrastructures are based in some way on GNSS, with communications, emergency services, finances and transport identified as particularly intensive users".

The Russian government's interference, blockade or bogus information of GNSS signals is "more indiscriminate and persistent, wider in scope and geographically more diverse than suggested by previous public reports," a recent Weekly Intelligence Summary of Digital Shadows, a computer security monitoring service.

For example, a large area above Cape Idokopas, near Gelendzhik on the Russian Black Sea coast, appears to be within a permanent GNSS spoofing area. The promontory, believed to be Putin's summer home, or dacha, contains a vast and sumptuous private residence - "a large Italian-style palace, several helicopters, an amphitheater and a small harbor," said C4ADS. It is the only private home in Russia that enjoys the same level of protection of airspace and GNSS interference as and as the Kremlin.

"The geographic location of the spoofing episodes closely matches the places where Vladimir Putin was making overseas and national visits, suggesting that Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS disturbance units to provide protection for the Russian president," Digital said Shadows. "The incidents also align with the positions of Russian military and government resources, although in some areas the reason was probably to limit access to or hinder foreign armies."

"In June 2017, the captain of the merchant ship Atria provided direct evidence of GNSS spoofing activities off the coast of Gelendzhik, Russia, when navigation systems aboard the ship indicated that it was in the middle of Gelendzhik airport, about 20 km away. More than two dozen other ships reported similar interference in the region on that day, "said C4ADS.

"In the summer of 2013, a group of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin successfully diverted GPS navigation systems aboard a $ 80 million super yacht using a $ 2,000 small-sized device. ", Said C4ADS. "The experimental attack forced the ship's navigation systems to transmit false positioning information to the ship's captain, who subsequently made slight course corrections to keep the ship more or less en route."