News Item

GPS Spoofing in Black Sea?

A blatant GPS spoofing attack in June, involving over 20 vessels in the Black Sea, has been reported.

The event first came to public notice via a relatively innocuous safety alert from the US Maritime Administration:
'A maritime incident has been reported in the Black Sea in the vicinity of position 44º15.7'N 037º32.9'E on 22 June 2017 at 0710 GMT. This incident has not been confirmed. The nature of the incident is reported as GPS interference. Exercise caution when transiting this area.'

But the background is more interesting and disturbing. On 22 June a vessel reported to the USCG Navigation Center:
'GPS equipment unable to obtain GPS signal intermittently since nearing coast of Novorossiysk, Russia. Now displays HDOP 0.8 accuracy within 100 m, but given location is actually 25 NM off . .'

After confirming that there were no anomalies with GPS signals, space weather or on-going tests, the Coast Guard advised the master that GPS accuracy in his area should be 3 m and advised him to check his software updates.

The master replied that his GPS equipment was fine and confirmed that over 20 ships in the area had had the same problem - sometimes position was correct, sometimes not. For a few days, GPS had given a position inland (near Gelendyhik aiport) but the vessel was actually drifting more than 25 NM from it - and, at that time, the GPS system indicated the position to be 'Safe within 100 m'.

Two days later, the master reported his GPS position to be totally wrong again, adding helpful pictures of displays and charts and noting that, once in a while, websites such as 'MarineTraffic' were showing all ships in the area to be shifting inland next to each other.

Analysis has concluded that this was a fairly clear, if not subtle, case of 'spoofing' - sending false signals to cause a receiver to provide incorrect information. It is pointed out that at one time the receiver reported its GPS antenna to be 39 m underwater, with all satellites having the same high signal strength but also high tracking errors.

The Resilient Navigation and Timing (RNT) Foundation has received numerous anecdotal reports of maritime problems with AIS and GPS in Russian waters, but this is the first publicly available, well-documented account of which they are aware.

The Foundation adds that Russia has very advanced capabilities to disrupt GPS, with 250,000 cell towers equipped with GPS jamming devices as a defence against attack by missiles; there have been press reports of Russian GPS jamming in both Moscow and the Ukraine.

The report by Dana A Goward, RNT Foundation President, can be found at the Maritime Executive link below. The Foundation will run a Forum prior to INC 2017 on 27 November - see link below . .

  • 12 July 2017
  • RIN

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