Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military United States Build

US Sentinel Drone Fooled Into Landing With GPS Spoofing 647

Posted by timothy
from the here-droney-droney-droney-droney dept.
McGruber writes "Following up on the earlier Slashdot story, the Christian Science Monitor now reports that GPS spoofing was used to get the RQ-170 Sentinel Drone to land in Iran. According to an Iranian engineer quoted in the article, 'By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.' Apparently, once it loses its brain, the bird relies on GPS signals to get home. By spoofing GPS, Iranian engineers were able to get the drone to 'land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Sentinel Drone Fooled Into Landing With GPS Spoofing

Comments Filter:
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:43PM (#38389250)

    The more important aspect of the truth that's slowly leaking out is that U.S. officials are finally admitting [cnn.com] that it was on a spy mission inside Iran and dropping that ridiculous cover story that it was just flying around Afghanistan and accidentally may have strayed into Iran (oopsy, whoopsy, did we cross your border?!?).

    Of course, most non-idiots have known for some time that the CIA and Mossad have been in a state of undeclared war with Iran for several years now--assassinating their best nuke scientists and engineers, spying on their facilities, helping fund the Green movement, releasing Stuxnet and other viruses aimed at sabotaging them. etc., etc. But die-hard apologists (who seem to think that all those people at the CIA just stare at the wall all day, I suppose) have refused to accept this. These are probably the same people who believe the Pakistani government when they claim they had no idea Osama Bin Laden was in that compound in Abbottabad and that they're still our good friends (please keep sending us your money, infidel allies). But I digress.

    • by Aldhibah (834863) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:48PM (#38389320)

      You mean the CIA has been actively trying to halt the nuclear weapons program of a nation who is opposed to the United States? Surely you jest!

      • by DriedClexler (814907) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:56PM (#38389494)

        With apologies to Under Siege 2:

        The US government is spying on Iran's nuclear ambitions. We (Americans and Iranians) know about the spying. And they know that we know. But we make-believe that we don't know, and they make-believe that they believe that we don't know, but know that we know.

        Everybody knows.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Except for the People. Let's make sure the People know, and things will unravel. Here's a well known puzzle to illustrate the point:

          In a certain matriarchal town, the women all believe in an old prophecy that says there will come a time when a stranger will visit the town and announce whether any of the menfolk are cheating on their wives. The stranger will simply say "yes" or "no", without announcing the number of men implicated or their identities. If the stranger arrives and makes his announcement, th

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            10.

            If there was only 1 cheating husband, his wife would see no one else kicking someone out, so would kick on day 1.

            If there were 2, both their wives would only see one other cheating husband, but neither would see him get kicked out on day one and deduce that there must be 2 cheaters, and the second must be their husband.

            Repeat.

          • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:10PM (#38390774) Journal

            Except for the People. Let's make sure the People know, and things will unravel.

            Frankly, if you are an American citizen, and you seriously thought that your government is not spying on Iran (including covert missions on their territory) up until that whole drone story, you are naive to the extreme, and should probably abstain from voting or otherwise participating in politics.

            • by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:21PM (#38392910)
              You clearly don't understand the point of the puzzle. There's a fundamental difference between "knowing" (suspecting) that something is true, and knowing thateveryone knows that something is true, and knowing that everyone knows that everyone knows that something is true, etc.

              Think about how stable the system in the puzzle is before the stranger arrives, and after the stranger arrives.

          • by RicktheBrick (588466) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:55PM (#38391290)
            Lets say there are 10 women. If the stranger says there is at least one man cheating than if only one man was cheating, his wife would know this that night because she would know that the other 9 did not cheat and since there must be one it would have to be her husband so on the first night she would throw her husband out. Now lets say there were two cheating husbands. Now on the first night the two that have cheating husbands would know that 8 are not cheating and would only see 1 women that has a cheating husband. When that women did not throw out her husband on the first night, they both would know on the second night that their husband have cheated on them since if there were only one, that women would have kicked her husband out on the first night. The logic will continue so if it is the tenth day before any husband is kicked out there must be 10 of them.
        • "And it came into Hooch's mind that when both parties are lying and they both know the other party's lying, it comes powerful close to being the same thing as telling the truth." -Orson Scott Card, Red Prophet
      • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:10PM (#38389762) Homepage Journal

        Halting would be one thing, but the reality is that the CIA started off trying to prevent Iran restarting a nuclear weapons program that had already been halted, then it moved to trying to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons in a couple of decades that it would not likely be able to ever deliver. It is now trying to stop Iran having deliverable nuclear weapons in two years.

        The assassinations, sabotage of equipment and virus infestations have led to a massive increase in Iran's investment and a net acceleration of the program.

        As halting goes, this is a total, unmitigated disaster beyond all possible imagining. Doing absolutely nothing at the start would have been sounder policy, based on data available. Doing bugger all once the program had started would still have given us ten years WE DON'T HAVE ANYMORE.

        Whatever lunatic thought up the program needs their head examined because this is the kind of absolute failure of intelligence (and wits) plus absolute failure of strategy that has led to the US spending $1tn on achieving bugger all in the Middle East this past decade. $1tn we taxpayers have to fork up. $1tn we don't have, won't have and will never have because we're going to now be pulled into another $1tn disaster. WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY ANYMORE, EITHER!

        Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, and by that standard half of CIA HQ should be locked up in a padded cell. This is inexcusable stupidity beyond all comprehension.

      • by sbrown123 (229895) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:13PM (#38389846) Homepage

        You mean the CIA has been actively trying to halt the nuclear weapons program of a nation who is opposed to the United States?

        Maybe a better, simpler solution is to build good relations with those who oppose you? This current strategy doesn't seem to be working very well and looks like it will only end with lots of people getting killed.

        • You mean the CIA has been actively trying to halt the nuclear weapons program of a nation who is opposed to the United States?

          Maybe a better, simpler solution is to build good relations with those who oppose you? This current strategy doesn't seem to be working very well and looks like it will only end with lots of people getting killed.

          Building good relations with Iran probably wouldn't go over very well, given the results in the past when the US has "built good relations with Iran". Avoiding screwing things up like the US has historically done would be a good first step, however. Working to remove the label of "international power-hungry bully" from the non-domestic US branches of government would also help. Until this happens, Iran's not going to trust the US further than it can throw a sandal.

        • by sdguero (1112795) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:17PM (#38390872)
          How is the United States supposed to build "good relations" with this kinda crap?
          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8022125/Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-his-outlandish-quotes.html [telegraph.co.uk]
          • by Luckyo (1726890) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:04PM (#38392126)

            They seem to have perfectly fine relations with Saudi Arabia?

            Also, you do know that most of his "outlandish quotes" are usually either purposefully mistranslated, or ripped massively out of context?

            • by sdguero (1112795) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:28PM (#38392370)
              If by "perfectly fine" you mean the saudis are ruled by a thinly veiled, US controlled, monarchical dictatorship, then sure our relations are perfectly fine.

              I'm not sure how "the holocaust never happened" quote can be taken out of context or mistranslated either.

              Iran is essentially ruled by Imams and a mishmash of Islamic leaders. Without oil money, savvy global political scheming, and a technology influx, the country would be quickly spinning into a dark age. I expect that to happen eventually anyway as long as they continue to be ruled by a non-secular government. History has proven time and time again that allowing faith to interfere or dominate government does not bode well for a nation's (or her citizens) future.
          • by yuje (1892616) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @09:45PM (#38392536)

            He may be nutty, but how many aggressive actions has Iran actually performed in the last hundred years?

            Much is made of Ahmadinejad and his supposed nuttiness and his Holocaust denial, but what has he actually done. Iran actually has a large Jewish population minority the largest of any Muslim country. Much is made of his supposed threat to Israel, but Iran hasn't invaded any country in the last century and more, whereas Israel has invaded all of its neighbors on several occasions and even annexed land in just the last 50 years, and the US has invaded two of Iran's neighbors. Iran is building nuclear reactors where Israel and the US already has them. Why can Pakistan, which actively supported the Taliban, and terrorists in India, and harbored bin Laden, allowed to legitimately own nukes (and is even a US ally) while Iran can't even have reactors?

            As for supporting terrorism? All but one of the 9/11 hijackers were from either Saudi Arabia or Egypt, the US's supposed allies. There hasn't been a single instance of an Iranian suicide bomber anywhere. Iran however, was invaded jointly by the UK and Soviet Union in World War 2 to provide a seaport for shipping supplies to Russia. The US deposed its former democratically elected President in the 1950s. When the despotic Shah was deposed, and Iraq invaded Iran, the US actively supposed Iraq, and weapons of mass destruction (poison gas) were used against the Iranians, while the US at best turned a blind eye, and at worse, aided and abetted Iraq. During said war, the US shot down an Iranian civilian airliner and to this day refuses to apologize for the incident. And now, Iran is suffering from sabotage of its facilities and assassinations of some of its smartest scientists.

            Or did you have the silly impression that bad relations were solely because of the current Iranian president, or that all the bad blood came solely from the Iranian side?

          • by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:30PM (#38393522)

            some of those don't seem so 'outlandish':

            On Osama bin Laden – May 2010

            "I heard that Osama bin Laden is in Washington DC ... Yes, I did. He's there. Because he was a previous partner of Mr Bush. They were colleagues in fact in the old days. You know that. They were in the oil business together. They worked together. Mr bin Laden never co-operated with Iran but he co-operated with Mr Bush."

            and

            On Paul the Octopus, who 'predicted' the result of World Cup matches – July 2010

            "Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values."

            also,

            On George W Bush – June 2008

            "This wicked man desires to harm the Iranian nation."

            all those are quite true, as everyone knows.

        • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:18PM (#38390882)

          ...build good relations with those who oppose you?

          Sure, let's get our diplomatic mission in Iran right on that. Oh yeah, they were all taken hostage and the embassy trashed. Well, maybe Iran has changed their policy on embassies... oops, the UK can testify that is not the case.

        • by pdxer (2520686) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:31PM (#38391044)

          Maybe a better, simpler solution is to build good relations with those who oppose you?

          You neatly summarize Polish foreign policy in the 1930s.

      • by bug1 (96678)

        "You mean the CIA has been actively trying to halt the nuclear weapons program of a nation who is opposed to the United States? Surely you jest!"

        The biggest difference between any two groups of people is their leader.

        You say a nation opposed to the United States, do you really mean that.. do you count the Iranian protesters who stand against their authoritarian government as part of the nation opposed to the United States ?

        The Nation is dead, long live the people.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:48PM (#38389334)

      So, the Iranians admit to spoofing GPS positions and this *isn't* used as an excuse to say 'the Iranians tricked it into crossing the border'? Color me impressed.

      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:03PM (#38389616)

        So, the Iranians admit to spoofing GPS positions and this *isn't* used as an excuse to say 'the Iranians tricked it into crossing the border'? Color me impressed.

        When Coke originally changed the recipe and then had to do a LOT of backpedalling to restore the original flavour (and get the sales back), the CEO made a wonderful comment on the whole thing. People were accusing Coca Cola of doing this on purpose to drive sales. Keough answered this speculation by saying "We're not that dumb, and we're not that smart".

        I think this can very much also apply to this situation. The US government wasn't dumb enough to openly admit to spying and the like, but they weren't smart enough to concoct your excuse before the cat was out of the bag.

        • Coke... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Grog6 (85859) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:58PM (#38391318)

          The old/new coke thing is when they phased in high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar.

          The delay gave everyone long enough to forget what it was supposed to taste like...

          Mexican coke still has sugar in it, and is best for mixed drinks. :)

          Asking for "Mexican Coke" at Kroger's can give unexpected results, lol.

    • by Intron (870560) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:19PM (#38389952)

      The more important aspect of the truth that's slowly leaking out is that U.S. officials are finally admitting [cnn.com] that it was on a spy mission inside Iran and dropping that ridiculous cover story that it was just flying around Afghanistan and accidentally may have strayed into Iran (oopsy, whoopsy, did we cross your border?!?).

      Actually the drone was just going for a hike along the border. There's some wonderful scenery in that area. It had no idea it had strayed across the line into Iran until the Iranians captured it. It certainly was not doing any spying and hopes to be released soon so it can return to its journalism career.

    • by the_raptor (652941) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:34PM (#38390236)

      Of course, most non-idiots have known for some time that the CIA and Mossad have been in a state of undeclared war with Iran for several years now

      Several years? Try since the CIA overthrew the civilian government of Iran in 1953. And the Iranians haven't been sitting quietly and taking it like a victim. There is plenty of evidence that Iranian resources were being used to train and supply insurgents in Iraq and Palestine.

      Iran was innocent when the CIA first got involved but these days they are playing the game with the big boys and getting what they deserve (as is the CIA).

      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:20PM (#38391608)

        Iran was innocent when the CIA first got involved but these days they are playing the game with the big boys and getting what they deserve (as is the CIA).

        That is my favorite quote of this /. story. It reminds me a little of the War of 1812. We had some provocation, but declaring war on the British Empire while the US had poor military leadership, resources and preparation turned out to be a bad idea.

    • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:35PM (#38390254) Homepage Journal

      One small correction -- at least one of the assassinated scientists turned out to be a theoretical quantum mechanics lecturer with no skills or knowledge applicable to the type of nuclear science relating to weapons technology. So basically they're not killing nuke scientists, they're killing scientists in the hopes of killing nuke scientists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MiniMike (234881)

      Of course, most non-idiots have known for some time that the CIA and Mossad have been in a state of undeclared war with Iran for several years now--assassinating their best nuke scientists and engineers, spying on their facilities, helping fund the Green movement, releasing Stuxnet and other viruses aimed at sabotaging them. etc., etc.

      Not to justify any of that, but you make it sound one-sided. Iran is well known as a state sponsor of terrorism [about.com]. Don't gloss over the fact that Iran has a government run by evil people who horribly oppress their own population, and would love to destroy the population of other countries too. The US and Israel are just first on their list, but the list does not end there.

      the same people who believe the Pakistani government when they claim they had no idea Osama Bin Laden was in that compound in Abbottabad and that they're still our good friends

      I don't think anybody actually believes that, even if they have to act as if they do.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:28PM (#38391006)

      Why are you so gullible to believe that this story is factual or the Iran Engineer even works for the government and is not making it up? The loss of GPS is already anticipated in American aircraft and weaponry since the cold war. The Soviet Union routinely jammed GPS in areas like North Korea. Hell LightSquared jams GPS with a WiFI broadcast, its nothing new. That's why since the 80s missiles use terrain mapping to either continue to the target or leave the jamming area. Once GPS is lost planes and missiles can use TERCOM or INS how did the Iranians get by that?
      The tomahawk missile has been around since the 80s and has this tech.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LightSquared#Interference_issues

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TERCOM

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_guidance

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomahawk_(missile)

      • by baileydau (1037622) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:14PM (#38393398)

        Why are you so gullible to believe that this story is factual or the Iran Engineer even works for the government and is not making it up? The loss of GPS is already anticipated in American aircraft and weaponry since the cold war. The Soviet Union routinely jammed GPS in areas like North Korea. Hell LightSquared jams GPS with a WiFI broadcast, its nothing new. That's why since the 80s missiles use terrain mapping to either continue to the target or leave the jamming area. Once GPS is lost planes and missiles can use TERCOM or INS how did the Iranians get by that?
        The tomahawk missile has been around since the 80s and has this tech.

        According to TFS they *didn't* jam the GPS signal. Otherwise it may well have switched over to another method.

        The TFS says they SPOOFED the GPS signal to say what they wanted it to say. Big difference ...

        Now I *thought* that GPS (at least the military version) was encrypted. If so, this would have significant implications as it would mean that they have the encryption key. And if it *isn't* encrypted, why the hell isn't it. That's just the first rule, never trust your inputs.

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:48PM (#38389316) Homepage
    I just know somewhere in the process of the multi-billion dollar drone development project someone must have said, "You know. I think a self-destruct mechanism might be a good thing to add." Of course, I can also imagine someone saying, "Yeah, they'll never even see it. It's stealth."
    • by laughing_badger (628416) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:51PM (#38389384) Homepage
      This supposes the drone is not full of weaponised swine flu virus. #tinfoilhat
    • I'm surprised that it didn't have some sort of dead-reckoning or inertial system as a backup in such cases. If the dead-reckoning says "whoa, it is physically impossible for you to be anywhere NEAR where you think you are so ignore the GPS, go on inertial" ...
      • by rabtech (223758) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:09PM (#38389748) Homepage

        I'm surprised that it didn't have some sort of dead-reckoning or inertial system as a backup in such cases. If the dead-reckoning says "whoa, it is physically impossible for you to be anywhere NEAR where you think you are so ignore the GPS, go on inertial" ...

        You forget that these things are designed by bloated defense contractors. These are the same people that were caught transmitting unencrypted video signals from spy drones that enemies were recording OTA.

        It wouldn't shock me in the slightest if it really was that easy to hijack the drone. It also wouldn't shock me that they didn't build-in any destruct safe-guard that erases all software, blow all fuses, and use the battery to burn the internals. In fact wrapping an Li-ion polymer pack around the control board then purposely putting the battery into overload to make it catch fire seems a reasonable way to handle it. Have it listen for a short encrypted destruct packet over shortwave that is encrypted with a one-time pad so they can blast the destruct signal at high power and have it bounce all over the world. I'm quite sure you could make it incredibly difficult to block that simple short destruct signal.

        Of course you must remember that it would be highly beneficial for Iran to claim they brought it down on purpose. Why you would tell your enemy how you did it publicly is beyond me.

      • by ironjaw33 (1645357) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:12PM (#38389830)

        I'm surprised that it didn't have some sort of dead-reckoning or inertial system as a backup in such cases. If the dead-reckoning says "whoa, it is physically impossible for you to be anywhere NEAR where you think you are so ignore the GPS, go on inertial" ...

        This reminds me of a cruise ship running aground [ieee.org] because a GPS antenna came unhooked. The crew was supposed to use LORAN to verify the GPS every hour, but they didn't.

        In some ways, the US may have learned just as much from this as the Iranians. Losing one unmanned aircraft to learn of a serious exploit that has implications far beyond drones might not be such a bad result.

      • by Whorhay (1319089)
        How much does an inertial guidance system weigh? I know they try to make these things as light weight as possible, could it have been left out deliberately?
        • Thats irrelevant since it is almost guaranteed that the drones already have all the hardware required for one. I doubt it would be possible to control the attitude of an aircraft solely on GPS. They will have gyros, accelerometers and magnetometers to determine pitch/yaw/roll. The only way to determine acceleration with GPS is to integrate over time, thats not very responsive. Given that all the hardware is there, the only component left is software - which doesn't usually weigh that much
        • Hmm, this [sparkfun.com] IMU is a 1.1 by 1.6 inches circuit board with not many components on it, so not much. Even if we're talking mil-spec, I have a feeling they could squeeze one in.

    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:58PM (#38389530) Homepage Journal
      A movie-style self destruction system like you're imagining (effectively computer controlled bombs planted all over the device) are a lot more dangerous to the ground crew than is really acceptable for all but the most closely guarded secrets. Having the computers and crypto gear self-wipe in event of capture is already standard procedure and probably happened here, but having the thing go up in a giant fireball because some tech accidentally shorted something while working on the bird is just not acceptable.
    • From a backseat engineering perspective, having some degree of local failsafe to back up the GPS would have been a good plan...

      The fact that GPS can be spoofed is not exactly a new discovery. "GPS Simulators" that provide a spoof GPS signal(for convenient testing of GPS gear in RF-enclosed environments only, of course...) are commercially available test equipment. Not inexpensive; but totally off-the-shelf. And, given how many commercial and military applications rely on GPS tracking or timekeeping it is
      • by Bugs42 (788576) <superjambob@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:11PM (#38389798)

        A compass and some accelerometers(or even a view of the sun and an RTC) are a lousy substitute for the accuracy of GPS; but they do provide a sanity check that could keep you going in approximately the right direction, at least enough to hard-land somewhere nominally friendly, if GPS cannot be trusted...

        It's almost certain that this drone DOES have an inertial navigation system - the problem is, how do you know when to use it? The way they usually work is that the navigation system computes two solutions: a hybrid GPS/INS solution to use most of the time, and a backup inertial-only solution. The inertial-only solution doesn't get used by the flight computers unless GPS is out entirely or there's some other very obvious problem. If you spoofed a GPS signal with real coordinates and slowly guided it away, how could the nav system see there's something wrong?

        • by ironjaw33 (1645357) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:15PM (#38390842)

          A compass and some accelerometers(or even a view of the sun and an RTC) are a lousy substitute for the accuracy of GPS; but they do provide a sanity check that could keep you going in approximately the right direction, at least enough to hard-land somewhere nominally friendly, if GPS cannot be trusted...

          It's almost certain that this drone DOES have an inertial navigation system - the problem is, how do you know when to use it? The way they usually work is that the navigation system computes two solutions: a hybrid GPS/INS solution to use most of the time, and a backup inertial-only solution. The inertial-only solution doesn't get used by the flight computers unless GPS is out entirely or there's some other very obvious problem. If you spoofed a GPS signal with real coordinates and slowly guided it away, how could the nav system see there's something wrong?

          Inertial navigation systems need reference points to prevent huge drifts over time. This is especially a problem if the aircraft flies relatively straight at the same speed for a long time -- accelerometers won't be able to detect slight changes in course. Like you said, GPS is often used to provide the reference points to attenuate drift. If the GPS system is wrong, then the inertial nav system is also going to be fooled.

  • nice hack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:48PM (#38389324) Homepage

    putting aside allegiances for a moment and looking at this from a purely engineering standpoint: bad ASS!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:49PM (#38389342)

    So, first of all, this is just really neat. It sounds like something that would happen in a movie. That's some movie-hacker shit right there.

    That aside, the thing that really worries me here is that the military's GPS was able to be spoofed in the first place. One would think that the GPS the military relies on would be encrypted or something, y'know? How difficult is it to spoof military GPS?

    • My understanding is that the only difference between military and civilian GPS is the accuracy. From gps.gov (take with a grain of salt, of course) "... military users can perform ionospheric correction, a technique that reduces radio degradation caused by the Earth's atmosphere. With less degradation, PPS provides better accuracy than the basic SPS."

    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:56PM (#38389482) Homepage Journal
      GPS is mostly unencrypted. There are some bits (the highest precision bits) that can be pseudo-encrypted so only the military has the most accurate positioning information available, but that obfuscation has been turned off for a number of years now. The GPS signal is too weak and low bitrate to make super secure. Drowning out GPS is relatively easy to do too, because the signal is so ridiculously weak to begin with.

      I wouldn't be surprised if the next generation drones (and revisions of the current gen) have more inertial navigation equipment that is trusted over GPS in cases where the GPS suddenly shifts position in flight. Inertial navigation won't get a bird home safely (the error bars get really really big over time), but it might let the thing fly away from the GPS jammer/spoofer.
      • by mollymoo (202721)
        They turned off selective availability - the deliberate introduction of errors to the unencrypted signal - many years ago, but the encrypted P(Y) military code which provides greater accuracy than the unencrypted C/A code is still encrypted.

        You can't spoof the P(Y) code without some pretty serious code breaking, but you could jam the P(Y) code and spoof the C/A code. If the GPS unit falls back to C/A when it can't get a lock on P(Y) you can spoof the position, but as part of the purpose of the P(Y) code is
      • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:47PM (#38391950) Journal
        One way that immediately comes to mind, would be to have the GPS receiver detect jamming/spoofing attempts by tracking satellite S/N ratio. If it suddenly goes up, or goes higher than a predetermined threshold, then you've got fake GPS data incoming. In other words, you use the fact that GPS satellite signals are so weak to begin with, and therefore harder to spoof in that regard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Erik Noren (926115)
      There's no secret or trick to it - you just broadcast the same way as a GPS sat (the protocol is well documented) and since the broadcast is local, it's more powerful than Satellites. People use GPS jamming devices to get out of paying tolls in the US - that's just broadcasting noise on the right channel. Spoofing is more refined - broadcasting actual offsets in the right channel. Really, military grade equipment should use some inertial tracking as well to prevent sudden-location shifts common with spoofi
    • by Bugs42 (788576) <superjambob@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:58PM (#38389538)

      One would think that the GPS the military relies on would be encrypted or something, y'know? How difficult is it to spoof military GPS?

      Very. The military GPS signals are encrypted with some pretty large keys that are changed every 24 hours IIRC. However, the nav systems will probably fall back to using the civilian GPS if the military signal is unavailable for some reason. My guess is that you could drown out all the real GPS signals with noise, then feed the target some spoofed civilian signals to get it to go where you want.

      • by zill (1690130)

        The military GPS signals are encrypted

        Wrong. The P-code is the encrypted GPS signal. P-code != military because:
        1. Non-military government agencies can also use the P-code (NASA,CIA).
        2. Some military assets do not use P-code (this drone).

  • Why... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msauve (701917) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:52PM (#38389402)
    was an expensive military drone using civilian GPS? The military has encrypted GPS signals (the P codes), which I very much doubt have been cracked. I'll bet someone made a decision to fallback to relying on unencrypted signals, instead of self-destructing after X minutes, upon loss of the encrypted signals.
  • Bad month for Drones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cosm (1072588) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (3msoceht)> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:52PM (#38389404)
    Also, there was the 2nd drone crash that happened recently after the Iran one, here. [csmonitor.com] They didn't cover this one as voluminously it seems. And now we see this.

    Bad month for US drone interest and parties involved.
  • by BLToday (1777712) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:58PM (#38389512)

    A man in the pilot seat.

  • unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:58PM (#38389516) Homepage Journal

    (land in Iraq, really?) Anyway, jamming isn't terribly difficult, especially when you're that close to the receiver. But "spoofing" GPS signals is a great deal more challenging. It's not the data on the gps signal, it's the timing that is the position information. If they were able to pull THAT off, they deserve the drone. and a pat on the back.

    If I had to guess I'd say they were lying about doing that, possibly hoping to make the US start questioning their reliance on GPS, since it's proving such a handy arms tool.

    • Re:unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Solandri (704621) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:10PM (#38389766)
      Agreed. Especially since correctly timing the spoofed GPS signals requires knowing the location of the (stealth) drone you're trying to trick.

      Most aircraft use a variety of navigation methods too, not just GPS. You have inertial, radio beacons (e.g. the old LORAN system and current VOR), terrain recognition. If the military didn't specify during the design phase that the drone be able to determine its position using a variety of these different methods and to reasonably handle loss of one or several of these methods of navigation, then it deserved to lose its drone.
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:01PM (#38389586) Homepage

    Those GPS spoofers got to Slashdot too, apparantly, fooling the editors into thinking that the drone landed in Iraq.

    • by ph1ll (587130)
      Yeah, how could the Slashdot editors confuse Iran and Iraq? One is an oil-rich country who's government was toppled by Britain and America and the other is... oh, wait...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:05PM (#38389670)

    FTA:

    "We all feel drunk [with happiness] now," says the Iranian engineer. "Have you ever had a new laptop? Imagine that excitement multiplied many-fold."

  • by Taelron (1046946) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:11PM (#38389796)
    This story sounds like more propaganda spin.

    The GPS network satelites broadcast two signals:
    Encrpyted - Used by the US Military
    Unencrypted - Everyone one else (Including pilots, car navigation, your hand held gps...)

    The Accuracy of the encrypted signal is much higher than the unencrypted signal. In fact the Military has the ability to vary the degree of accuracy and drift of the unencrypted gps signal. They use to vary it daily to keep enemys from using it against us. A practice that has subsided now that air travel and other services rely so heavily on GPS. Yet the Military still maintains and excerts the ability to manipulate the gps accuracy in any zone.

    Its much more difficult to "spoof" an encrypted signal.

    And images of the bird show damage to the wing indicating it smashed into something hard enough to dent and tear the carbon composite outer skin.
    • by Whorhay (1319089)

      Someone else pointed out already that the encryption for the military signal is so low bitrate that it's not likely to be very strong encryption.

      And they didn't necessarily need to spoof the military signal. The drone might have the capability to use the unencrypted signal if it can't read the military one. In that case they could just jam the military signal and override the civilian one.

      The damage could just be from them not landing it in a large and open enough area. It probably just ran into a rock or t

  • And what happens.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GigG (887839) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:12PM (#38389814)
    What happens when Iran or some other country uses this technology to cause one of our manned combat aircraft or worse yet a civilian aircraft to overfly their airspace and then they shoot it down?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sd4f (1891894)

      I'm no pilot, so i don't know for certain, but i think they have protocols in case of this, if their instrumentation has an external outage, like GPS failure, they'll still have other instruments which can be used, less accurately, and with cumulative error, but they can still calculate where they are with some precision, if the GPS comes back online and tells them something drastically different, the pilots will no doubt start checking things, and they'll probably radio to somewhere else to get checked out

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:18PM (#38389934)

    "What, our multimillion dollar RC aeroplane with super special awesome shooty bits on it got STOLEN? I thought those people were a bunch of camel riding nomads that didn't even have electricity! How did they spoof our GPS and jam our command and control feeds!?"

    "Well sir, yes, the drone was actually stolen and not shot down. As for their offensive technical abilities sir, they *are* developing nuclear weapons, and most of their population is not comprised of nomadic camel riders, sir."

    "Are you mockin' me son?! I've served in this god-blessed nation's armed forces muh entire life! And now you intend to tell me, that some turban wearin camel humpers not only defeated state of the art tactical surveylance like it was child's play, and didn't knock it down with rocks or summat', but that their so called nuclear program is actually viable, AND that my assessment of their "society" is plain and simply 'wrong'?!"

    "No sir, I am not mocking you sir, but the rest of what you said is true sir."

    "Get out of here private! I don't know who assigned you to technical liason, but they obviously picked a mo-ron. If I could demote you any lower than private, rest assured the orders would go through expediently!"

    [I am probably (hopefully) wrong about this caricature, but this sure looks like how things are being run.]

  • by chicksdaddy (814965) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:21PM (#38390932)
    PublicIntelligence has a copy of an April, 2011 report identifying problems with drone communications including the risk of jamming and "lost link" events: http://publicintelligence.net/usaf-drones-in-irregular-warfare/ [publicintelligence.net]
  • MONUMENTAL BLUNDER (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:40PM (#38391130)

    If the Iranians cleverly caused one of our most sophisticated stealth drones to land where they wanted it to -- in undoubtedly one of the neatest thefts in the digital age -- then the laughter in their command center upon receiving Barach Obama's request for its return must have been thundering. What's the Farsi equivalent of "Say what dude?" The genius of this theft is that the Iranians didn't really need to know where the stealth drone was for sure perhaps because the stealthiness was probably effective; they just needed to suspect that a drone was flying at a certain time in order to pull off their experiment ... which probably to their immense surprise, actually WORKED. Shame on our Pentagon and/or CIA for YET AGAIN underestimatinng the smarts, resolve, wherewithal, and luck of our enemies. Who would have thought that something so precious and expensive could be so easily compromised? Somebody needs to be ass-whipped and then fired because of this arrogant stupidity. How long before our enemies' copies of these stealthy drones are flying over the U.S. in preparation for some kind of incursion? What a f..king monumental blunder!

  • by knarf (34928) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:52PM (#38391256) Homepage

    This story about the Iranians 'spoofing GPS' sounds unlikely. Jamming, sure, that would be easy. Spoofing, not so. I'd say it is way more likely they intercepted the (relatively slow) drone and found a way to force it down (stall its engine by dousing it with water, throw a parachute at the air intake, whatever). It would not surprise me one bit if the thing just went down all by itself and was found by the Iranians. It is not like those defense contractors are know for delivering high quality materials after all...

  • So, they spoofed GPS, jammed the drone's communications, then convinced it to land with the spoofed GPS coordinates. That's awesome.

    Then, uhhh, why exactly did you guys have the kids from the Tehran High school football team and pep squad make up banners to hide the undercarriage?

    Don't get me wrong. Both sides have plenty invested in having their own version of the story be the authoritative version, and the odds of the general public finding out the truth any time this decade are infinitesimal at best. But what we've been shown doesn't currently support the "we made it land on its own because we're fucking badass and the Americans suck" theory. It supports the "we don't want you to see what the underbelly looks like, also, we're lousy artists" theory. The iranians might have brought it down, and it might have crashed on its own while inside Iranian borders. "Proof" is in short supply at the moment.

  • Utter Garbage (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hasai (131313) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:37PM (#38401002)
    It's amazing how little a grasp of basic engineering, or even common sense, your typical journalist has, or any other people who actually believe this bunk.

    1) How does one "jam" a tight-beam satellite uplink? Electronic Warfare has been around for just as long as there has been radios on the battlefield, and people actually think that the possibility of jamming didn't occur to the craft's designers?
    2) Jamming GPS, however, *can* be done; you just have to be louder than the broadcast signal. HOWEVER, see the first item. The possibility never occurred to the designers?
    3) In order to "spoof" a GPS to such a precise degree as to make the aircraft land would require the Iranians to know the precise location (within a meter or two) of the craft in relationship to the terrain below it. A stealthed aircraft that even American systems have difficulty detecting, mind you. Otherwise, drone goes SPLAT.
    4) Even assuming a miracle happens and 3) is actually accomplished, the aircraft is now scooting along the ground at several hundred miles per hour. How do you tell the craft to shut down its engine? Better yet, how do you get it to drop its landing gear?

    So; after all this, let's play a bit of Occam's Razor: The drone suffered a major malfunction and splattered itself across the face of a mountain somewhere. The Iranians, in the hopes of deterring the Americans from sending more drones, cook up this cock-and-bull story of being able to bring the drones down intact. Their "proof" is a fiberglass model put together from released photos and media footage (Oh, look! The landing gear just *happens* to be concealed! Possibly because the Iranians don't know what it's supposed to look like?).

    Now; doesn't this sound just a little bit more plausible?

If you think the system is working, ask someone who's waiting for a prompt.

Working...