Heading Off Course: What is Putting Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) at Risk?

Sppofing and jamming put GPS-based position, navigation, and timing aka PNT assurance at risk

The challenges facing GPS-only Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) technology are growing significantly as conventional and unconventional adversaries increasingly turn to electronic warfare (EW) technology to gain an advantage. But how do these EW weapons disrupt critical PNT functions for military, commercial, and recreational use?

GPS Disruption: Jamming

Jamming is a simple and often highly effective means of disrupting GPS signals. It involves overwhelming weak GPS satellite transmissions with digital “noise” that cripples the ability of GPS receivers to receive and process a clear signal, resulting in the inability of the user to obtain a position or navigation solution.

How effective is jamming as a political/military tool? In 2011, it was reported that North Korean jamming operations used Russian-made jamming equipment to block South Korean GPS signals, compromising their ability to use GPS-guided weapon systems. And in 2016, it was determined that Russia effectively disrupted European monitoring efforts using drones to detail ceasefire violations and acts of aggression in the Ukrainian conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

GPS Disruption: Spoofing

Spoofing is a more sophisticated relative of jamming. Instead of using electronic noise to jam GPS signals, spoofing creates fake satellite signals to trick GPS receivers. Although the use of jamming is growing relatively common in the field, spoofing is less prominent.

The simplest spoofing attack involves capturing an authentic signal from a satellite and replaying it with an additional delay, convincing the receiver that it’s farther away from the satellite than it really is, resulting in an incorrect position of the receiver. This technique requires nothing more than real-time views of the satellites overhead and a transmitter that can overpower the signals received directly from the satellite. Another more effective technique is to directly synthesize a new signal and pretend to be an actual GPS satellite.

In addition to reports of spoofing activities aimed at military equipment in recent years, an apparent GPS spoofing attack was blamed for navigation errors experienced by commercial vessels in the Black Sea in summer 2017.  Spoofing presents a clear and present danger to both military and commercial GPS applications that will only get worse with time as more efficient and less-costly technology and equipment becomes available, legally and illegally.

Learn more

Do you want to learn more about threats to GPS-only Position, Navigation, and Timing and solutions to jamming and spoofing? Download the free ebook, Positioning, Navigation & Timing Assurance: Meeting the Growing Threat of GPS/GNSS Disruption, today.

You might also be interested in Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) – An Ancient Concept Facing Modern Threats

About Chris Watson 98 Articles
Chris is the senior director of marketing for KVH Industries. A lifelong sailor and storyteller, he's a self-professed geek who finds all of this technical stuff fascinating.