Report calls Russia a pioneer of GPS spoofing attacks

Russian military and intelligence operations are increasingly using GPS spoofing to protect sensitive locations and cause disruptions beyond the country’s borders or in military zones, a report released this week revealed.

The report, written by the Advanced Defense Center (C4ADS), analyzed 9,883 GPS spoofing incidents in Russia and around Russia over the past three years.

C4ADS concluded that GPS spoofing attacks were becoming a viable strategic threat and that they were likely to proliferate among other belligerent countries. The approximately 9,800 incidents in which Russia has deployed GPS spoofing equipment now testify to its effectiveness.

What is GPS spoofing?

GPS spoofing is the use of false GPS jammer  (global positioning) to deceive equipment in the range of such false signals by transmitting incorrect geolocation coordinates to GPS compatible devices.

The main objective is to encourage humans and devices to avoid an area or make GPS navigation unreliable in certain areas, which also causes problems for people, equipment or operations in this area.

GPS spoofing should not be confused with GPS scrambling, which is sending a powerful radio signal that prevents “all” incoming GPS satellite signals from reaching GPS compatible devices in an area while effectively closing the navigation GPS.

GPS spoofing is also often referred to as GNSS spoofing, GNSS designating the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), a term used to describe global positioning systems in general. The GPS system has been developed and still belongs to the United States Government. Other GPS-based systems also exist or are under development and are often described as GPS systems, although a more precise denomination would be GNSS.

The practice of GPS spoofing is not new. Scientists and military strategists always knew it was possible.

But in previous decades, GPS spoofing attacks required sophisticated knowledge to build and use complex equipment costing tens and hundreds of thousands of US dollars. This has nevertheless changed in recent years.

With the ramp-up of Software Defined Radio (SDR) and publicly available, open source GPS spoofing code, the cost of building GPS spoofers has been reduced to $ 300.

Russian GPS spoofing incidents

In a 66-page report released this week, C4ADS experts documented the results of 9,883 GPS spoofing cases reported or reliably documented in areas in and around Russia.

C4ADS experts point out that most of the incidents they documented were able to confuse GPS-enabled devices in designated areas, showing that Russian forces now routinely use this capability in contested war zones or geographical areas. .

Most incidents have been reported around Ukraine and Crimea, where the Russian army is in open conflict. Other incidents have also been reported in Syria, where Russia has troops, but also around the border between Russia and the NATO countries, and even inside Russia, around government buildings and sensitive intelligence services.