Counterfeit Signals Causing More Disruptions

On January 6th 2018, 13 GPS-guided drones attacked Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. Though Russian forces shot down the drones, Khmeimim Air Base is now under guard for future attacks—and has been since April of 2018. Merely three months after the mass drone attack, the Russian government began counterfeit signals and disruption of GPS signals in an attempt to protect its air base, but these preventative measures are becoming a nuisance to those around the base, the disruptions reaching as far as 140 miles away.

The counterfeit signals , which interferes with communication and GPS signals, was first reported by pilots flying throughout the Middle East in the spring of 2018. GPS spoofing, which mimics the signal of the GPS it wishes to take over, has also been reported. Initially, the jamming only affected high-flying aircraft. Recently, however, the disruptions coming from Khmeimim Air Base have begun to affect flights as far away as Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

According to Todd Humphreys, an aerospace engineer and professor at the University of Texas, the source of the disruptions is coming from the Khmeimim Air Base. Because the disruptions initially only affected high-flying aircraft, it was thought that the signal was ground-based; however, because the disruptions have spread farther out, it is now believed that the transmitter has been relocated to a higher elevation.

According to Popular Mechanics, the signal coming from the transmitter is strong enough to interfere with U.S. military drones, even those equipped with anti-jamming capability. And while Russia seems to be protecting Khmeimim Air Base from future attacks, the country has been inculpated in roughly 10,000 cases of GPS spoofing.

As discussed above, disruption of GPS satellite signals is becoming more of a threat to society each day.  In addition to navigation, GPS signals play a key role in the operation of critical infrastructure systems such as communications networks, financial systems, power grids, and more. Despite the fact GPS does a good job of providing solutions for diverse applications, these signal were never designed to be used in many of the ways they are being applied today. And as critical applications push the envelope in their use of existing systems, the result is deficiencies which leave them vulnerable.

GPS produces signals originating from 20,000 km above the earth and these signals are very weak by the time they reach the ground. This means the signals have difficulty working indoors and can be affected by interference from intentional jamming. Also, these signals are unencrypted, and therefore susceptible to disruption which is a serious threat for critical applications.

STL, delivered by Satelles, is a secure, robust solution used to complement GPS and other GNSS satellite signals, making applications more resilient, reliable, and secure.

Originating from the Iridium® constellation of 66 low-earth-orbiting satellites, STL is 1,000 times stronger than GPS signal, capable of reaching deep into buildings and overcoming jamming issues without the aid of local infrastructure. Cryptographic security features of STL also provide exceptional resilience to disruptions.

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