Just ask the Russians who’ve made massive investments in electronic warfare and turned their cell phone towers into GPS jammers. They’ve also created “one of the most aggressive electronic warfare environments,” in Syria and are jamming F-35 GPS Systems near Iran. Foreign Policy even points out that Vladimir Putin’s bodyguards use a GPS Spoofer to protect the Russian president against drone strikes.
Putin’s bodyguards are using what on its face is a counterintuitive approach to prevent assassination attempts by drone. The GPS spoofer that travels with Putin impersonates civilian GPS signals and provides the receiver with false coordinates for local airports. It chooses the coordinates of local airports because commercial drones typically come preprogrammed with safety mechanisms that make them automatically land or shut down when they enter the airspace of an airport.
In theory, drones operating near Putin will shut down or automatically land when they come within range of the spoofer. Fear of assassination by drone is a realistic one: Last year, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro survived an attempt on his life that involved using drones to target him with explosives.
But Russia’s use of spoofing technology is having some surprising side effects. In September 2016, Putin traveled to the Kerch Strait along with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to inspect progress on a $4 billion bridge to the Russian mainland and meet with workers. While the two Russian leaders were there, the automatic identification systems of nearby ships—systems that rely in part on GPS—started reporting their locations as the Simferopol Airport about 125 miles away.
Researchers have noticed a funny coincidence whenever Russian ships get close to a harbor. GPS of ships that are moored start going haywire, say researchers at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. GPS Jamming has been reported in the Black Sea, around Russian borders with Norway and Finland, in the Ukraine, and pilots flying through the Middle East, specifically in and around Syria have noticed GPS systems displaying wrong locations.
Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas has been tracking this phenomenon for months and has identified the source of the signal jamming GPS in and around Israel, it’s the coming from the Khmeimim Air Base which was built by Russia in 2015. Judah Ari Gross of the Times of Israel goes on to say (abridged):
According to Humphreys, the method being used by Russia appears to be a combination of jamming, in which GPS service is outright denied, and spoofing, the term for feeding GPS receivers false information.
He said the sudden appearance of the problem in Israel could be the result of any number of changes to Russia’s deployment of its transmitters, also known as jammers — either the deployment of additional transmitters, an increase in the power of them or a repositioning of one of the jammers closer to the border with Israel.
“But my assumption is that Russia relocated one of its transmitters recently,” he said.
Israeli officials have also said Russia appeared to be to blame for the GPS interference, with some unnamed defense officials telling the Haaretz newspaper on Friday that the source of the problem seems to be coming from either a land-based or ship-based jammer.
The Russian Embassy denied the claims by Israeli officials, saying the allegations were “fake news.”
I don’t find Russia’s denials credible. I can actually see [the signal] from space
But Humphreys said based on his data, he was 90 to 95 percent positive that Moscow was behind the interference.
“I don’t find Russia’s denials credible,” he said, repeating, “I can actually see [the signal] from space.”
This GPS denial of service does not affect Russian pilots taking part in the civil war in Syria, as Russia does not rely on GPS satellites for its navigation. Instead, Russia uses its indigenous Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS.