In the wake of conspiracy community chatter about the possibility journalist Michael Hastings’ car computers might have been hijacked causing the fiery crash and his untimely death, we have yet another new example of the power of technology to hijack our various transportation systems.
University of Texas at Austin students used a custom-built GPS signal spoofer to send a yacht off course. The $80 million vessel relies entirely on GPS for navigation, and with the owner’s permission the students used their device to mimic a GPS signal. The yacht’s on-board navigation system detected the signal and used it as a triangulation point; no alarms were triggered, and the crew obeyed their computer and changed course.
GPS spoofing devices are illegal in the US, but can be purchased without issue in other countries. The tactic has also made international news: North Korea was accused of using a similar attack against its southerly neighbor in a massive GPS jamming incident last year. As the Houston Chronicle reports, there are ways to combat these spoofing devices, but “if nothing is done, [GPS receivers are] vulnerable to attack.”