Tagged: GPS spoofing

Using a HackRF to Spoof GPS Navigation in Cars and Divert Drivers

Researchers at Virginia Tech, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Microsoft recently released a paper discussing how they were able to perform a GPS spoofing attack that was able to divert drivers to a wrong destination (pdf) without being noticed. The hardware they used to perform the attack was low cost and made from off the shelf hardware. It consisted of a Raspberry Pi 3, HackRF SDR, small whip antenna and a mobile battery pack, together forming a total cost of only $225. The HackRF is a transmit capable SDR.

The idea is to use the HackRF to create a fake GPS signal that causes Google Maps running on an Android phone to believe that it's current location is different. They use a clever algorithm that ensures that the spoofed GPS location remains consistent with the actual physical road networks, to avoid the driver noticing that anything is wrong.

The attack is limited in that it relies on the driver paying attention only to the turn by turn directions, and not looking closely at the map, or having knowledge of the roads already. For example, spoofing to a nearby location on another road can make the GPS give the wrong 'left/right' audio direction. However, in their real world tests they were able to show that 95% of test subjects followed the spoofed navigation to an incorrect destination.

In past posts we've seen the HackRF and other transmit capable SDRs used to spoof GPS in other situations too. For example some players of the once popular Pokemon Go augmented reality game were cheating by using a HackRF to spoof GPS. Others have used GPS spoofing to bypass drone no-fly restrictions, and divert a superyacht. It is also believed that the Iranian government used GPS spoofing to safely divert and capture an American stealth drone back in 2011.

Other researchers are working on making GPS more robust. Aerospace Corp. are using a HackRF to try and fuse GPS together with other localization methods, such as by using localizing signals from radio towers and other satellites.

[Also seen on Arstechnica]

Hardware and Method used to Spoof Car GPS Navigation.
Hardware and Method used to Spoof Car GPS Navigation.

Cheating at Pokémon Go with a HackRF and GPS Spoofing

"Pokémon Go" is the latest in smartphone augmented reality gaming crazes. You may have already heard about the game on the news, or seen kids playing it in your neighborhood. To play, players must walk around in the real world with their GPS enabled smartphone, collecting different virtual Pokémon which appear at random spots in the real world, replenishing the virtual items need to collect Pokemon at "Pokéstops" and putting Pokémon to battle at "Gyms". Pokéstops and gyms are often city landmarks such as popular shops, fountains, statues, signs etc. For those who have no idea what "Pokémon" are: Pokémon are fictional animals from a popular children's cartoon and comic.

Since the game is GPS based, Stefan Kiese decided to see if he could cheat at the game by spoofing his GPS location using a HackRF software defined radio. The HackRF is a relatively low cost multipurpose TX and RX capable software defined radio. When playing the game, players often walk from Pokéstop to Pokéstop, collecting Pokémon along the way, and replenishing their items. By spoofing the GPS signal he is able to simulate walking around in the physical world, potentially automating the collection of Pokémon and replenishment of items at Pokéstops.

To do this he used the off the shelf "GPS-SDR-Sim" software by Takuji Ebinuma which is a GPS Spoofing tool for transmit capable SDR's like the HackRF, bladeRF and USRP radios. At first, when using the software Stefan noticed that the HackRF was simply jamming his GPS signals, and not simulating the satellites. He discovered the problem was with the HackRF's clock not being accurate enough. To solve this he used a function generator to input a stable 10 MHz square wave into the HackRF's clock input port. He also found that he needed to disable "Assisted GPS (a-gps)" on his phone which uses local cell phone towers to help improve GPS location tracking.

Next he was able to use the GPS-SDR-Sim tools to plot a simulated walking route and see his virtual character walking around on the real world map. A warning if you intend on doing this: Remember that 1) spoofing or jamming GPS is highly illegal in most countries outside of a shielded test lab setting, so you must ensure that your spoofed GPS signal does not interfere with anything, and 2) the game likely has cheating detection and will probably ban you if you don't simulate a regular walking speed.

GPS spoofing is not new. One attempt in 2013 allowed university researchers to send a 80 million dollar 213-foot yacht off course, and it is suspected that hackers from the Iranian government have used GPS spoofing to divert and land an American stealth drone back in 2011. In past posts we also showed how security researcher Lin Huang was able to spoof GPS and bypass drone no fly restrictions.

[Also seen on Hackaday.com] / [Russian Readers: There is a translation of this article by softdroid now available]

The "Pokemon Go" GPS spoofing set up.
The "Pokemon Go" GPS spoofing set up.