Russia reportedly using Starlink in Ukraine

February 2024: According to Ukrainian source, Russian forces may be using Starlink for communication inside Ukraine. SpaceX’s response has been that the company  “does not do business of any kind with the Russian Government or its military. Starlink is not active in Russia, meaning service will not work in that country. SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia.” While Starlink could prevent their service’s use in Russian-occupied territories, the Russian forces could employ methods making it difficult to exclude their terminals. The RNL’s Dr. Humphreys also suggested that “SpaceX may also be hesitant to tightly police the location of Starlinks” according to the Defense One article and that the company may “fear that a mistake in defining the front line could leave Ukraine without Starlink coverage.” For more on the story, visit the original article here.

The aviation industry’s response to recent GPS security concerns

February 2024: The IATA and EASA have reportedly announced steps to “share information about incidents of GPS tampering and make sure pilots and crew can identify when [GPS spoofing] is happening.” During these events, the aircraft will be required to use backup ground technology systems to navigate. The RNL’s Dr. Humphreys is concerned that, while some planes can switch off GPS when being spoofed, other equipment may make it impossible to switch to backups before it is too late. According to Dr. Humphreys, “commercial aircraft can be collateral damage as conflicts escalate and militaries send false GPS signals to try to intercept drones and other aircraft.” There are many applications that rely heavily on GPS, many of which have not accounted for GPS spoofing. While recent events probes the aviation industry’s response to spoofing, other systems have “yet to be tested,” says Dr. Humphreys. For more, access the WSJ article here, or a transcript here.

Call for NATO response to GPS Interference in Europe

February 2024: As members of NATO in Europe face more and more GPS interference, some look to NATO for a response. There have been numerous reports of GPS spoofing and jamming towards recent members like Finland, older members like Poland, and prospective members like Sweden.

These GPS interference events are believed to be conducted by Russia. The RNL’s Zach Clements found that a number of transmitters are involved spread across a wide area. Both jamming for denial of service, as well as spoofing have been observed, with the latter causing commercial aircraft instruments showing them “far from their actual location and flying in a circle”. Clements Clements is reasonably sure about the source of the circle spoofing inside Russia as “[t]he points at which the aircraft began to be impacted by the spoofing and where they regained authentic GPS indicate that the spoofer is somewhere in western Russia. Interestingly, the location the aircraft were spoofed to is a field about a kilometer from Russia’s decommissioned Smolensk military airbase.” Other researchers, like Zixi Liu at Stanford, confirm some of these findings.

For more on the story, visit the article here.

GPS Spoofing of commercial aircraft in parts of Europe

February 2024: Public aircraft tracking databases indicate a recent increase in GPS interference for aircraft operating in the Baltics in the last month. Previously reported disruptions occurred on New Year’s Eve in southeastern Finland, followed by areas in Poland in mid-January. Towards the end of January, more reports of disruptions came in from southern Sweden, northern Poland, Estonia and Latvia.

The RNL’s Zach Clements expressed his confidence that Russia is the source of the spoofing. According to the Forbes article, “a number of transmitters across a large area jammed GPS to deny service and at least one was actively spoofing aircraft in such a fashion that their instruments would indicate they were flying in a circle far from their actual location. [Dana Goward (president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation)] noted that this kind of “circle spoofing” has been frequently observed with ships. The Holiday incidents were the first time it was reported in aviation. According to Clements, ‘the location the aircraft were spoofed to is a field about a kilometer from Russia’s decommissioned Smolensk military airbase.'” For more on the subject, visit the Forbes article here.

GPS Jamming from Russia in Baltics

January 2024: “Parts of Poland, Lithuania, southern Sweden, and other countries in the Baltic region had an unexpected Christmas present this year. GPS signals were disrupted and not available in many areas on the 25th and 26th of December […] Analyses of the event by graduate students at the University of Texas Radionavigation Laboratory and Stanford University have provided some details and will likely reveal more as time goes by. Zach Clements at U.T. studied the disruption and discovered that it included several transmitters spread across a wide area. Some were simply jamming GPS signals to deny service. At least one transmitter was spoofing aircraft so their instruments would show them far from their actual location.” For more on the story, visit the article here.

The aviation industry is not Prepared for electronic Warfare

January 2024: Airway UM688 has been the likely unintentional target of multiple GPS spoofing events. These events manifest as “suddenly, either the plane will start to turn or you’ll get a whole bunch of warnings: terrain failure, navigation error, position error.” The RNL’s Dr. Todd Humphreys believes that these sort of events are “here to stay,” as “Electronic warfare and small, cheap, attritable drones […] go hand in hand,” especially in the context of the Electronic Warfare observed in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The complexity of the aviation industry, including aviation regulatory agencies and aircraft operators, make improving the security of the entire system challenging. According to Dr. Humphreys, “the FAA has known about the spoofing threat for over 20 years. Nothing it has done in that time has really addressed the problem. I think it’s disgraceful.” For more on the subject, visit New York Magazine’s The Intelligencer article here.

Mounting reports of GPS spoofing against commercial aircraft

December 2023: Reports of GPS spoofing in commercial aircraft centered near the Middle East have been increasing since September of 2023. According to the RNL’s Zach Clements, “the
research community has long warned the public about something like this.” In fact, the RNL’s Dr. Todd Humphreys displayed the possibility by spoofing a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean a few hundred meters away from its actual position. Clements says “the necessary devices are pretty easy to get […] for less than 500 dollars.” He speculates that these attacks are for deterring drones rather than commercial aircraft. For more details of the story, visit the article here.

GPS spoofing continuing to affect commercial aircraft

December 2023: GPS spoofing of aircraft has continued in the Middle East, “corrupting their backup inertial navigation systems (INS).” The RNL’s Dr. Todd Humphreys along with Zach Clements are using GNSS observables obtained from LEO satellites to geolocate the spoofers. According to Dr. Humphreys, “the device was on the eastern periphery of Tehran based on many different measurements from many different satellite over-flights.” Unfortunately, the GPS and INS integrated systems in avionics do not currently check each other to avoid ingesting falsely-assumed vetted information. Even if they did, a “crafty spoofer could capture an aircraft even though the aircraft checks data against its inertial sensor.” For more on the subject, visit the Forbes article here.

Spoofing now affecting commercial flights

November 2023: The first cases of GPS spoofing of commercial aircraft occurring in the last couple of months. OPSGROUP, an international group of pilots and flight technicians, “has tracked more than 50 incidents in the last five weeks.” According to the RNL’s Dr. Humphreys,
“spoofing is the new jamming. In other words, it is being used for denial of service because it’s more effective for that purpose than blunt jamming. […] But an important distinction with GPS jamming is that whereas jamming denies GPS, it doesn’t corrupt the IRS. Spoofing does, which is highly significant as regards airline safety.”

“Dr. Humphreys and others have been sounding the alarm about an attack like this occurring for the past 15 years. In 2012, he testified by Congress about the need to protect GNSS from spoofing.” He also mentions that “[aviation systems are completely unprepared for it and powerless against it].” Dr. Humphreys and the RNL’s Zach Clements are “using raw GPS measurements from several spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, [and] located the source of this spoofing to the eastern periphery of Tehran”. For more information can be found here.

1 2 25