The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the US drone held by Iran may have been brought down using a known GPS spoofing exploit. According to the report, an Iranian engineer working with the captured drone claims that:
Iran guided the CIA’s "lost" stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military.
And indeed, a 2003 report published by the Los Alamos National Laboratory says:
A more pernicious attack involves feeding the GPS receiver fake GPS signals so that it believes it is located somewhere in space and time that it is not. This “spoofing” attack is more elegant than jamming because it is surreptitious. The Vulnerability Assessment Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has demonstrated the ease with which civilian GPS spoofing attacks can be implemented. This spoofing is most easily accomplished by using a GPS satellite simulator. Such simulators are uncontrolled and widely available. To conduct the spoofing attack, an adversary broadcasts a fake GPS signal with a higher signal strength than the true signal. The GPS receiver believes that the fake signal is actually the true GPS signal from space and ignores the true signal. The receiver then proceeds to calculate erroneous position or time information based on this false signal.
Now whether this is true or not, we may never know. But it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of plausibility. And the images circulating online, if real, don’t appear to show any crash damage. It’s no wonder the US military is looking into alternative positioning systems and ways to reduce their dependence on GPS.
Image via aja.ir