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Dangers in GNSS Spoofing

Written by DFM Team


Dangers in GNSS Spoofing

In Digital Forensics Magazine Issue 18 we reported extended research on the accuracies of GNSSs (Global Satellite Positioning Systems) and the implications for evidential use. The major concern was that the variability of GNSS data over time, locations, and environments, was sufficient to cast doubt on the factuality of space-time claims. The implications from the research report suggested that the presentation of GNSS evidence in court rooms required further validation testing against a simple set of assertions before acceptance. In more recent years plentiful anecdotal evidence has arisen suggesting that invalidated map data in GNSS can be unacceptably incorrect and erroneous. For example, the story of the student leaving his backpackers accommodation late one evening in Amsterdam looking for the nearest coffee shop, and following his mobile phone GNSS application for directions, fell into a canal because his map was inaccurate. My wife had a similar experience while driving a late model vehicle in which the GNSS displayed the vehicle moving on open fields and in rivers when in fact she was driving at 100 km/hr on a new six lane motorway, and obviously on an older version of map software. These examples underwrite the indeterminacy of evidence taken from GNSS, and the necessity of evidence audit and validation. However, more recent research and published cases suggest that sinister anti-forensic activities are being perpetrated through a multiplicity of GNSS vulnerabilities. These include the planting of anti-forensic data in GNSS units, the physical exercise of units to record anti-forensic data, and the compromise of GNSS units for anti-forensic purposes. The signals themselves that a GNSS relies upon for timing or positioning can be spoofed to create an anti-forensic opportunity or to deceive the user of the device into unplanned actions. Two high profile examples of deception have been the capturing of military drones by allegedly GNSS signal spoofing, and the breach of territorial jurisdiction by naval vessels that apparently unknowingly went off course and were legitimately arrested. Such dependency upon the GNSS for critical decisions warrants an independent arbitrator for validation.

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