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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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.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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