University of Texas Researchers Hack $80 Million Yacht

A radio navigation research team led by University of Texas assistant professor Todd Humphreys recently used a customer-made GPS spoofing device about the size of a suitcase to direct a 213-foot, $80 million yacht off its intended course (h/t Threatpost).

In 2012, Humphreys conducted a similar experiment in which he and his students used a GPS spoofing device to take control of an aerial drone.

“With 90 percent of the world’s freight moving across the seas and a great deal of the world’s human transportation going across the skies, we have to gain a better understanding of the broader implications of GPS spoofing,” Humphreys said in a statement. “I didn’t know, until we performed this experiment, just how possible it is to spoof a marine vessel and how difficult it is to detect this attack.”

The experiment was conducted in June 2013 aboard the White Rose of Drachs, about 30 miles off the cost of Italy. Graduate students Jahshan Bhatti and Ken Pesyna broadcast GPS signals toward the ship’s GPS antennas, overpowering the authentic GPS signals until they were able to gain control of the ship’s navigation system and turn the ship off course.

“The surprising ease with which Todd and his team were able to control a [multimillion] dollar yacht is evidence that we must invest much more in securing our transportation systems against potential spoofing,” Chandra Bhat, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and an eSecurity Planet contributor since 2009.

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