Print 33 comment(s) - last by Reclaimer77.. on Jun 27 at 12:35 PM

Team repeatedly takes over flying drone using $1000 DIY spoofer

Professor Todd Humphreys and his team from the University of Texas at Austin's Radionavigation Laboratory recently demonstrated the ease with which hackers can take over drones that rely on GPS signals. The ability to control a flying unmanned aircraft by spoofing the GPS signal should come as no surprise, considering it was used against the United States by Iran. In that instance, the U.S. drone was tricked into simply landing where the Iranian hackers wanted it.
According to the University of Texas team, there is a concern that compromised drones could be turned into weapons. The FAA is set to open skies over the United States to drone fleets for different uses including surveillance by law enforcement officials.
Humphreys opines, "Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane."
The scary part of the demonstration given by the professor and his team is that anyone with the right tools can take over the GPS-guided drone. Spoofing is when technology is used against drone that is able to manipulate navigation computers with false information that the drone sees as real. Humphreys and his team used what they call the most advanced spoofer ever built, and it costs only $1,000 to construct.
The GPS spoofer is able to send signals to the flying drone that are stronger than those from GPS satellites in orbit. The attack Humphreys demonstrated begins by matching the signal of the GPS system so the drone believes nothing has changed. Once the drone is fooled into following his GPS signal, his own commands are sent to the onboard computer, giving the team complete control of the drone.
Humphreys told Fox News, "In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace. Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us."
Humphreys and his team made a trip to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico where officials from the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security watched as Humphrey and his team repeatedly took control of over a drone from a nearby hilltop. The Department of Homeland Security is currently working with researchers like Humphreys and others to identify and mitigate the possibility of GPS interference.

Source: Fox News

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That's pretty bad
By nick2000 on 6/26/2012 10:40:31 AM , Rating: 3
So much for surveillance drones, criminals will resort to stealing drones? They are probably worth a tidy sum.

Of course, it also means that people in Afghanistan or Pakistan can play that game too. Is there a risk that they land it, booby trap it and send it back home?

RE: That's pretty bad
By AssBall on 6/26/2012 10:51:05 AM , Rating: 2
compromised drones could be turned into weapons

Yeah, never mind that many of them are armed with hellfire missiles. And what about tomahawks? They run on GPS too don't they? I realize they aren't flying around all the time like drones, but still, how would you like a nuclear armed tomahawk hitting your aircraft carrier. Not cool.

RE: That's pretty bad
By WalksTheWalk on 6/26/2012 10:57:23 AM , Rating: 2
Doesn't the military have encryption on their GPS and other critical communications and navigation systems? Shocking if they don't.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Quadrillity on 6/26/2012 11:31:11 AM , Rating: 4
Knowing how the modern military operates, no it wouldn't be shocking in the least. All of the hollywood dramatic war movies have most Americans believing in a super-advanced military/government that doesn't exist. A local small town bank often has better security than the feds.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 1:11:24 PM , Rating: 4
All of the hollywood dramatic war movies have most Americans believing in a super-advanced military/government that doesn't exist.

Hollywood? I think CNN's video coverage of laser guided smart-bombs following streets, making 90 degree turns, and flying into windows and exploding in the first Iraq war did that for us.

If we don't have a super-advanced military I would like to see who does :)

There's only so much we can do to prevent jamming vulnerabilities. Despite what people are saying here, our drones do in fact use encrypted GPS signals. The encrypted P code for military users is transmitted on both the L1 and L2 frequency. The problem is if you jam all the encrypted frequencies, it's very easy to make the drone think it's elsewhere when it has to rely on unsecured GPS data.

This has nothing to do with our military technology, in my opinion. This is an inherent flaw with automated systems that rely on signals that can be compromised. Some jobs should just be handled with a man in a cockpit.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Bad-Karma on 6/26/2012 5:35:32 PM , Rating: 1
To take over a full control of a UAV wouldn't be that easy.

Most UAVs operate using a dedicated satellite link. The beam width (uplink) on a satellite link is very thin and extremely focused at the dish on the satellite. It emanates from a small parabolic dish so anything that is not in front of the dish's parabolic aperture can receive or transmit to the dish. So to jam the link you would need to have a few things going.

1.) You need to have your jamming signal in line of sight of the UAVs parabola. (ie almost directly between the UAV and the satellite. )

2.) You would have to be at a higher altitude than the UAV.

4.) Your Jamming signal has to actually be able to interfere with the link. Most use satcom freq. hopping encrypted) radios and have enough frequency excursion that the embedded channels contain multiple redundancies to overcome any jamming attempt.

There are many other factors but this is the down and dirty.

Now that is for the larger Military drones, many of which are being sought after for domestic surveillance. Now if things are going askew with GPS you still have a man in the loop back at the ground station who can take over manual flight operations and recover the drone.

You can skew the civilian GPS as demonstrated in the article, but actually getting into the command and control channels, or even the general "housekeeping" channels, is a far more challenging prospect.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Quadrillity on 6/26/2012 6:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
Well, maybe I should have elaborated more. I meant to convey that our military isn't the same one pictured in movies like Eagle Eye. That's not to say that we aren't on the cutting edge of technology; because we are. I simply wanted to point out that we aren't some super-force that is impervious to making poor design decisions and limited budgets.

And I stand by what I said; often times we find out that our government is using very outdated security practices (or sometimes not using anything at all). The high profile private sectors are a LOT more secure in the real world. Well, for the most part lol.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/27/2012 12:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
Ah I see now. Yeah Eagle Eye was just...HA! More sci-fi than anything.

And of course I agree with you on our Government's inefficiency and security issues.

RE: That's pretty bad
By gamerk2 on 6/26/2012 11:32:10 AM , Rating: 3
Nope. If it wasn't required by contract, it wasn't done. First rule of contracting: If you aren't contracted to do it now, don't do it, as you waste money on a feature that obviously isn't wanted (it wasn't in the contract...). If they eventually decide they DO want it, they'll be back with more money later. Win-win for the contractor (and the shareholders).

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 1:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
Gamer I love how in your typical ignorant anti-"industrial military complex" rant, and idiotic evil shareholders shpeal, your entire premise is false. Not only that but you couldn't even be bothered to check for yourself that encryption most certainly IS used, and everything you just said is false.

Only a colossal idiot would believe the already-existing military GPS band wouldn't be used in drones. Or that somehow this would be done to save money. Money? All it's doing is tuning into a different frequency than the civilian GPS.

RE: That's pretty bad
By gamerk2 on 6/26/2012 2:33:00 PM , Rating: 2
Reclaimer, since I WORK in the industry, some advice: shut it.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 2:56:17 PM , Rating: 2
Much like how a burger-flipper can boast that he's "in the food industry", your claims of being in the military procurement industry does not impress me.

No way you hold any position of consequence with the manner in which you post. Zero chance.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 3:20:30 PM , Rating: 2
I mean you didn't even know that drones used secure military GPS. Something anyone can find using Google. So it's pretty funny that you're trying to pull the industry expert card now, when it's clear your opening post was nothing but an ill-informed ignorant anti-military anti-corporatist hatefest.

RE: That's pretty bad
By johnsmith9875 on 6/26/2012 4:51:20 PM , Rating: 2
That's how ALL contracting works. If it isn't in the contract, the vendor won't give it to you.

If you agree to buy cars with 1 wheel missing, the vendor will deliver said cars with 1 wheel missing.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Calin on 6/27/2012 9:09:51 AM , Rating: 2
Things are difficult enough as they are - just look at all the delays in high profile projects. No contractor will want to induce new delays due to features that are not requested explicitely (they might do that and "inject" them into a new, improved, for-sale version, but not for the current contract).

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 1:17:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, if you had used Google you would know we do. Encryption isn't some magical protection from jamming however.

RE: That's pretty bad
By johnsmith9875 on 6/26/2012 1:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
I read a story about how the Taliban were using baby monitors to see what our drones were looking at. Encryption costs money and our weapons are built by lowest bidder.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Solandri on 6/26/2012 3:56:32 PM , Rating: 2
When I worked for a DoD contractor, all this stuff was negotiated in the contract. If the Army wanted to add encryption, we'd price out how much it would cost and give them a quote. If they didn't like the price, they'd either seek out another company for the contract, or opt for no encryption. You build what they ask you to build. No more, no less. Sometimes we'd make suggestions or recommendations, but the decision whether or not to implement them was totally up to the Army.

RE: That's pretty bad
By Calin on 6/27/2012 9:13:45 AM , Rating: 2
Adding encryption would eat into the power budget too - which might be limited based on the battery carrying capacity of the infantrymen - so, the Army might simply not want your encryption-loaded device if that means the infantry must carry another 10 pounds of batteries.

RE: That's pretty bad
By gamerk2 on 6/26/2012 11:50:34 AM , Rating: 2
Thinking too small. How about Iran hijacking an Isrieli drone, moving it inside Isriel, and having it shoot its payload into Iran itself. Headlines around the world will read "Isriel attacks Iran", givng Iran all the justification it needs to go to war with Isriel.

RE: That's pretty bad
By nolisi on 6/26/2012 12:23:35 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, can you point which country Isriel is on a map?

RE: That's pretty bad
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2012 12:32:42 PM , Rating: 5
South of Derka Derkastan!

RE: That's pretty bad
By Azethoth on 6/26/2012 1:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
So just north of and bordering on Iran itself then? (5 mile range on a Hellfire)

RE: That's pretty bad
By GrammarPolice on 6/26/2012 3:04:09 PM , Rating: 1
Perhaps you could first learn to spell Israel.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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