Navigation Trap: Unexpected Threat of GPS for Aviation

Researchers from Texas University have reported the first instances of commercial aircraft being hijacked through GPS spoofing. Since late September, a series of incidents have occurred in the Iraq and Iran region, resulting in the failure of navigation systems on some airliners and business jets. One business jet even almost entered Iranian airspace without permission.

The cause of these incidents is the use of fake GPS data, which in turn disrupts the backup inertial navigation systems (INS). Todd Humphris, director of the UT Austin radio navigation laboratory, explains that in such situations, the backup systems lose their reliability.

Using satellites in low-earth orbit, the researchers from Texas University were able to identify the source of the spoofing signals to the eastern outskirts of Tehran. They also discovered a new spoofing source in Israel, which appears to have been utilized to counter precise missiles and shells belonging to Hezbollah.

These events underscore the significant vulnerability of modern aviation navigation systems. Humphris emphasizes the need for measures to verify the data reliability between GPS and INS in order to ensure security. Unfortunately, this verification process is currently lacking in modern avionics.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, already includes digital signatures for data authentication, whereas the American GPS system does not possess such functionality yet. Humphris states that until these problems are addressed, the risk for commercial and business aviation will remain high.

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.