Researchers show how a major GPS flaw could allow terrorists and hackers to hijack commercial ships and planes

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 20:29 EST, 27  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 20:29 EST, 27 July 2013

The world’s GPS system is vulnerable to  terrorists and hackers who could use it to hijack ships, including commercial  airliners and cruise ships, a new hands-on study shows.

A team of researchers at the University of  Texas were able to take control of the navigation system aboard an $80 million,  210-foot super-yacht in the Mediterranean Sea using a laptop, a small antenna  and an electronic GPS ‘spoofer’ built for $3,000, Fox  News reports.

‘We injected our spoofing signals into its  GPS antennas and we’re basically able to control its navigation system with our  spoofing signals,’ Todd Humphreys of UT told the news station.

Scary discovery: The world¿s GPS system is vulnerable to terrorists and hackers who could use it to hijack ships, including commercial airliners, a new study shows 

Scary discovery: The world¿s GPS system is vulnerable to  terrorists and hackers who could use it to hijack ships, including commercial  airliners, a new study shows

Implications: 'Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications we're worried about,' said Humphreys 

Implications: ‘Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine  running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications we’re worried  about,’ said Humphreys

 

 

‘Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine  running a ship aground. These are the kinds of implications we’re worried  about.’

The UT team were able to steer the ship far  off course and even potentially put it on a collision course with another ship  by feeding counterfeit radio signals to the yacht.

During that interception, the ship’s GPS  system reported that it was calmly moving in a straight line, along its intended  course, without any alarms or other indications that something was amiss,  Humphreys said.

 

The ship’s captain, Andrew Schofield, who  reportedly invited Humphreys and his team on board to conduct their experiment,  told Fox News that he and his crew were completely stunned by what  occurred.

‘Professor Humphreys and his team did a  number of attacks and basically we on the bridge were absolutely unaware of any  difference,’ Schofield said.

The potential repercussions are frightening  and wide-reaching, Humphreys said.

Hijack: A team of researchers at the University of Texas were able to take control of the navigation system aboard a ship in the Mediterranean Sea using a laptop, a small antenna and an electronic GPS 'spoofer' (Stock photo) 

Hijack: A team of researchers at the University of Texas  were able to take control of the navigation system aboard a ship in the  Mediterranean Sea using a laptop, a small antenna and an electronic GPS  ‘spoofer’ (Stock photo)

 

‘For maritime traffic, there are big  implications,’ he told Fox News.

‘You’ve got 90 per cent of the world’s cargo  going across the seas. Imagine shutting down a port. Imagine running a ship  aground. These are the kinds of implications we’re worried  about.’

This is not the first time cracks in the  world’s GPS system have been exposed.

Last year, Fox News reported on another,  less advanced, experiment that Humphreys conducted using a small, unmanned  drone.

The UT professor was able to feed ‘spoofing’  signals into the drone’s GPS, causing it to almost drop out of the sky, and as a  result was called before Congress to testify.

 

He also spoke with officials from the FAA,  CIA and Pentagon, according to Fox News.

‘Before we couldn’t control the UAV,’ he said  ‘We could only push it off course.

‘This time my students have designed a closed  loop controller such that they can dictate the heading of this vessel even when  the vessel wants to go a different direction.’

Humphreys criticized the Department of  Homeland Security for ‘fumbling around in the dark on GPS security’ and said the  agency has done little to address the potential threat.

Quick interception: 'We injected our spoofing signals into its GPS antennas and we're basically able to control its navigation system with our spoofing signals' Todd Humphreys of UT, pictured, told Fox News 

Quick interception: ‘We injected our spoofing signals  into its GPS antennas and we’re basically able to control its navigation system  with our spoofing signals’ Todd Humphreys of UT, pictured, told Fox  News

'Fumbling in the dark': Humphreys criticized the Department of Homeland Security for 'fumbling around in the dark on GPS security' and said the agency has done little to address the potential threat 

‘Fumbling in the dark’: Humphreys criticized the  Department of Homeland Security for ‘fumbling around in the dark on GPS  security’ and said the agency has done little to address the potential  threat

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