US President to reduce government use of GPS over cyber fears

Image of spoofing GPS signals. Credit: NakedSecurity

President Donald Trump has issued an executive order directing the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Commerce to minimise the number of US systems dependent on GPS for navigation and positioning.

The order, signed on 12 February, was issues amid hacking fears and highlights US vulnerabilities in cyber security. “The risk of GPS interference is on the rise globally, these GPS attacks are done by either state actors or lone operators, said Roi Mit, chief marketing officer of Regulus Cyber, an autonomous security solutions company, commenting on the US president’s order.

“As time goes by more and more technologies around us are becoming dependent on satellite navigation and timing, especially in the autonomous era, thus it is now becoming one of the largest cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the modern age,” Mit said.

GPS interferences such as; jamming, spoofing, hacking, and signal altering can be generated easily as the origins of GPS was designed to be open and accessible.

One such high profile GPS spoofing incident took place in the Black Sea where 53 ships were ‘relocated’ during a Russian military exercise. Another incident took place last year in the Azov-Black Sea basin, where Ukrainian commercial vessels suffered GPS jamming allegedly from Russian controlled areas.

Cyber vulnerability testing firm, Pen Test Partners, demonstrated at the Infosecurity Europe conference in 2019 how electronic chart systems can be hacked to spoof the location and size of vessels. The firm concluded that such a hack could cause chaos in busy shipping lines if proper cyber security measures are not taken.

The European Union and the UK are similarly working on GPS regulation .