Sunday, March 18, 2012

GPS Anomaly in Central Russia May be Spoofing


Photo by Pavel Kazachkov | CC BY 2.0

For the last few months, there have been plenty of odd reports coming out of Russia that there is a GPS anomaly in central Moscow. And, as the reports have become more and more frequent and the Russian government continues to stay quiet on the matter, some people believe that it may, in fact, be a case of GPS spoofing.

According to the CNN report, many people are experiencing glitches in their GPS devices when nearing the Kremlin. This glitch, or anomaly, suddenly forces their device to show users located in Vnukovo airport—nearly 20 miles away from the Kremlin. It’s notable that it’s not just the Kremlin—the signal reportedly fluctuates all around Moscow but is most noticeable closer to the Kremlin. 

Although reports have been showing up for months now, and many users including Uber drivers have been complaining about the anomaly, the Russian government has been silent about it. The only comment I’ve ever seen reported in any of the articles is simply “no comment”. But, while there is no official confirmation, all of the evidence points to GPS spoofing.

What is Spoofing?

In a nutshell, spoofing is when a stronger signal drowns out the GPS signal, making a device believe that it is in an alternate location. GPS spoofing is illegal to do in the United States, and technically is frowned upon and protected by the UN, although there isn’t a lot of repercussions for countries that use spoofing. Additionally, spoofing devices are actually extremely easy to create, and can be found online for next to nothing.

The trouble with spoofing is that most technology nowadays uses GPS in some way, and with spoofing, you could potentially give someone directions that could lead them into danger. However, many people speculate that the Russian spoofing (if that is, indeed, what is happening) is likely a precaution against the use of drones over its airspace. Drones tend to have automatic protocols when heading into airport airspace, and will immediately land so as to not obstruct commercial air traffic.

At this point, of course, everything is merely speculation. Be sure to check back, as we’ll keep an eye on the situation and write more if anything changes.

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