Russia Suspected in GPS Satellite Signal Spoof

The website The Maritime Executive has a story up about an apparently successful bid by Russia to scramble GPS signals in the Black Sea–for reasons unknown:

An apparent mass and blatant, GPS spoofing attack involving over 20 vessels in the Black Sea last month has navigation experts and maritime executives scratching their heads.

The event first came to public notice via a relatively innocuous safety alert from the U.S. Maritime Administration:

“A maritime incident has been reported in the Black Sea in the vicinity of position 44-15.7N, 037-32.9E on June 22, 2017 at 0710 GMT. This incident has not been confirmed. The nature of the incident is reported as GPS interference. Exercise caution when transiting this area.”

But the backstory is way more interesting and disturbing. On June 22 a vessel reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center:

“GPS equipment unable to obtain GPS signal intermittently since nearing coast of Novorossiysk, Russia. Now displays HDOP 0.8 accuracy within 100m, but given location is actually 25 nautical miles off; GPS display…”

After confirming that there were no anomalies with GPS signals, space weather or tests on-going, the Coast Guard advised the master that GPS accuracy in his area should be three meters and advised him to check his software updates.

The master replied:

“Thank you for your below answer, nevertheless I confirm my GPS equipment is fine.

“We run self test few times and all is working good.

“I confirm all ships in the area (more than 20 ships) have the same problem.” 

The article goes on to describe further details of the incident, and to note that hundreds of thousands of cell phone towers in Russia are equipped with GPS jamming devices as a defense against US missiles–and also that Russia has previously jammed GPS signals in Russia and in Ukraine.

Point being, we should not underestimate Russia’s capabilities when it comes to spoofing satellite signals.