Saturday, December 17, 2011

Iran Hacked GPS Signals To Capture U.S. Drone

[ via Information Week ] 16 Dec

Iran recently captured a CIA batwing stealth drone by spoofing the GPS signals it received, fooling the drone into thinking it was landing at its home base.

American RQ-170 Sentinel drone shot down by Iran on display
The Christian Science Monitor, broke that news Thursday, after interviewing an Iranian engineer who's been reviewing the systems of the captured RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which was downed by Iranian forces on December 4 near Kashmar, which is about 140 miles inside northeast Iran.
"The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the engineer told theMonitor. Indeed, numerous researchers have warned that GPS signals are relatively easy to spoof, given that the related signal broadcast by satellites is relatively weak. Accordingly, the Iranians focused on spoofing the GPS data being received by the drone.
To make the drone rely only on GPS, however, first the Iranians jammed the remote-control communications channel used to guide the drone from its control center. "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain," said the engineer. Notably, it's also much easier than trying to crack the encrypted remote-control communications channel.

With the drone relying solely on GPS to determine its latitude, longitude, altitude, and velocity, the Iranians then broadcast carefully spoofed GPS coordinates, which allowed the drone to land at what it believed was its home base. In reality, it landed well inside Iranian borders. The altitude of the spoofed location was slightly different, however, which ended up denting the drone's underbelly, as can be seen in video footage released by Iran.
The revelations over Iran's GPS jamming capabilities mean that the country could be able to divert any GPS-guided missiles launched at targets inside its borders.
Read full story for more.

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