What is GPS spoofing? And how you can defend against it

The U.S. Global Positioning System, part of a network of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), is vulnerable to attacks that could disrupt many industries. Here's how it works and what you can do to mitigate its risk.

GPS spoofing definition

GPS spoofing is an attack in which a radio transmitter located near the target is used to interfere with a legitimate GPS signals. The attacker can transmit no data at all or could transmit inaccurate coordinates.

The U.S.-operated Global Positioning System (GPS) is just one of the world’s global navigation satellite systems (GNSSs). Others include Russia's GLONASS, China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, and the European Union's Galileo.

GNSS is also used for accurate timing, and attackers can interfere with that function. For example, in March, at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, an attack from an unknown source affected the GPS systems of Audi, Peugeot, Renault, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz and BMW cars. Instead of showing the accurate location, the cars were reporting that they were in Buckingham, England, in the year 2036.

GPS spoofing is also used to refer to smartphone apps that can affect a phone’s location data, as well as to cyberattacks against networked systems that rely on GPS data.

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