In June, a radio navigation research team from The University of Texas at Austin successfully coerced an $80 million, 213-foot yacht off its course using a custom-made GPS device.
The team did so by using the first-ever openly acknowledged GPS spoofing device. Spoofing is a technique that creates false civil GPS signals to gain control of a vessel’s GPS receivers. From the super yacht's upper deck, the researchers broadcasted a faint ensemble of civil GPS signals from their spoofing device - a blue box about the size of a briefcase - toward the ship’s two GPS antennas. The team’s counterfeit signals slowly overpowered the authentic GPS signals until they ultimately obtained control of the ship’s navigation system.
The researchers hope their demonstration will shed light on the perils of navigation attacks, serving as evidence that spoofing is a serious threat to marine vessels and other semi-autonomous vehicles such as aircraft.