In a frightening demonstration, University of Texas Professor Todd Humphreys and his team hijacked a 210-foot yacht sailing in the Mediterranean Sea with only a $3,000 GPS spoofer, an antenna and a laptop.Â
The team assembled a device that emits a false GPS signal that can easily be mistaken and accepted by the ship crew as genuine. Once the signal is accepted as legitimate, the engineers gain the â€œauthorityâ€ to steer the vessel at will.
â€œWe injected our spoofing signals into its GPS antennas andÂ weâ€™reÂ basically able to control its navigation system with our spoofing signals,â€ Todd Humphreys explains. â€œImagine shutting down a port. Imagine running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications weâ€™re worried about.â€
On the ship, apparently no alarm device picked up the foul play: â€œProfessor Humphreys and his team did a number of attacks and basically we on the bridge were absolutely unaware of any difference,â€ the ship’s captain Andrew SchofieldÂ toldÂ Fox News.
Given that 90 per cent of the global cargo is maritime, messing up this kind of transportation can impact the economy disastrously. This prompted US government and army officials (CIA, Pentagon, and Congress) to contact Humphreys and have him speak about the GPS vulnerability and his proof-of-concept.
The navigation systems of ships and commercial aircraft are similar which means that the same type of attack could be conducted against planes as well.
The advancement of the attack form is significant since last year when the team led a proof-of-concept attack against drones.
“Before we couldnâ€™t control the UAV. We could only push it off course. This time my students have designed a closed loop controller such that they can dictate the heading of this vessel even when the vessel wants to go a different direction,â€ Humphreys says.
See the proof-of-concept video here – Spoofing on the High Seas