Gone are the days when we had to unroll physical maps to reach our destination. Today, all of us are rescued by GPS trackers, which are handy and efficient. Do you know that private companies in the USA have enjoyed the benefits of $1.4 trillion since the inception of GPS in the 1980s?
However, with continued technological advancements, spoofing attacks are increasing, and so are their types.
What is spoofing, specifically GPS spoofing? Here, we’ll discuss this common cybercrime, how it works, the dangers, and prevention methods.
Let’s dive in!
What is GPS Spoofing?
In GPS spoofing, the location and time zone of a device is altered. A hacker can decide to hide all data or transmit wrong locational coordinates.
Cybercriminals usually do this with evil intentions to cause harm to individuals, groups, organizations, and sometimes, even countries. At times, individuals fake their own location for online privacy.
Two of the most common global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are the United States Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).
How Does GPS Spoofing Work?
Spoofing GPS is easy as the signals aren’t encrypted and require no verification for transmission. The GPS spoofer takes advantage of the weak signals and sends the fake ones in their place.
This is possible using a GPS spoofing app that manipulates the data of the original coordinates. The hacker needs to be physically present near the device so that the signals can be mimicked or tricked.
GPS Spoofing: Legal or Illegal?
Are you wondering if GPS spoofing is illegal? Well, it’s a mix of both. Military GPS spoofing is legal as soldiers spoof their locations to stay protected from enemies However, if the motive is to cause harm to an individual or organization, it’s entirely illegal.
Where is GPS Spoofing Used?
GPS spoofing is used in countless industries and for various needs— from confusing adversaries to faking the length of a taxi trip. Below are a few examples.
At wartime, the displayed location of ships, planes, cars, and other vehicles can be spoofed to mislead foes.
Taxi drivers use GPS spoofing techniques to fake their location for extra charges. In some cases, they conduct criminal activities through disguised coordinates.
Construction material is often dumped using machines with GPS mechanisms. This can be dangerous if the machine dumps heavy materials at the wrong location.
E-commerce logistics and courier companies mainly use geofencing to hinder anyone who might want to hijack long-haul transfers. A GPS application tracks the order location and the geographical trigger only allows a vehicle to unlock when it reaches the correct destination. This is a way to prevent thefts and robberies.
There are some apps that work with the help of GPS trackers. This could be for the purpose of gaming, food delivery, online cab booking, and more. The GPS spoofer sometimes tricks the system to display incorrect coordinates.
Types of GPS Spoofing
With this attack type, GPS spoofers overpower weak GNSS signals, which helps them hack the system and display the wrong coordinates. There are two types of GPS spoofing:
- Rebroadcasting GNSS Signals (Meaconing): This takes an existing signal (which may have happened in another place and another time) and rebroadcasts it.
- Modifying Satellite Signals: This type takes an existing signal, modifies, and transmits it.
In both cases the goal is to confuse or mislead users.
Why is GPS Spoofing Dangerous?
GPS spoofing on android, iOS, Linux, Windows, and macOS is dangerous as it allows fraudsters to fake their location and commit crimes. We know that military GPS spoofing is used for legal purposes. However, it also encourages the practice of deception and crimes. Here’s how it happens:
Global businesses use geo-blocking techniques to limit the usage of their services within specific territories. However, GPS spoofing can bypass these restrictions, causing losses to the companies.
Another risk pertains to the gaming industry. Pokemon Go is the best example. Players spoof their location to gain unfair advantages against other players.
Thirdly, companies like Uber and Doordash are heavily reliant on GPS locations. Imagine their driver or delivery person faking their location and making money! This can be detrimental to their brand image and customer retention rate.
Moreover, these days even kids use GPS spoofing apps to fake their locations for prying parents.
Deception GPS spoofing isn’t as dangerous as GPS spoofing intended for attacks, thefts, and robberies. GPS spoofers bypass security protocols and access your devices to obtain sensitive information or send messages, emails, and similar requests in your name.
How to Prevent GPS Spoofing?
Ohio State University is developing preventive methods against fake GPS signals, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to give a grant of $1.9 million for the same. Fortunately, there are still some measures that can prevent you from getting victimized.
Don’t Place Antennas in Public Places
Hide your antennas from public view, mainly if your business depends upon GPS locations. The more exposed your antennas are, the easier it is to overpower the signals and fake the location.
Use Sensor Blockers
Sensor blockers detect and notify you of any interference, jamming, and spoofing signals.
Use Resistant GPS Signal Types
It’s always best to use GPS signal types that oppose all sorts of interference and spoofing.
Install a Good Anti-GPS Spoofing Firewall
Another approach is to use reasonably large GPS receivers known as GPS firewalls. They’re installed between the receiving device and external antenna and work by rejecting signals that seem fake.
Install Decoy Antennas
Installing a decoy antenna in plain view is an effective way to avoid getting victimized. Unnecessary antennas make it easier to identify which one is targeted by GPS spoofers.
Use a VPN
A VPN allows you to browse the internet without sharing your IP address. This prevents hackers from tracking your location for GPS spoofing through hardware. If you frequently travel, using a VPN is a must, as you’ll likely connect to various public networks, which can be very unsafe.
Now that you’re familiar with GPS spoofing and the methods to avoid it, don’t forget to learn how to recognize email spoofing from our previous articles. In any case, practices like using a VPN and scanning your devices periodically will protect you from many spoofing types.