Spoofing on the High Seas: Yacht vs. GPS Device
Can a luxury yacht be spoofed? The answer: Yes. The question: Could you hijack my yacht? The backstory: It all started at SXSW. After hearing professor Todd Humphreys report in his 2013 SXSW Interactive panel that he had brought down an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) with a specialized GPS cyber attack, a distinguished-looking audience member with a British accent challenged him: "I don't suppose you could do the same with a 213-foot Super Yacht?" So began an improbable story that culminated with an improbable scene: a $2k box the size of a small briefcase controlling an $80M yacht the size of a jumbo jet. A team of UT Austin scientists used the custom-made GPS device to take control of the White Rose of Drachs as it sailed last June in the Mediterranean Sea. The scientists will discuss the technical aspects of this hack, and its implications for worldwide transportation security. The White Rose's captain will give a first-person account of what he saw during the attack.
Additional Supporting Materials
- How the GPS spoofing experiment work? This was a UT Austin experiment using a private yacht and a custom-made GPS device - it's the world's first public GPS spoofing device. Humphreys said he had no idea how easy it would be to spoof a yacht and difficult it would be to detect until this demo.
- What were the technical challenges of the experiment? Humphreys and his team have spoofed a drone, but a yacht was a completely different animal. They'll go into detail about how both crew and navigation systems can be subtly tricked.
- What was the perspective of the crew during the demonstration? Were they really tricked? Crew members from the yacht will discuss their experience from the bridge and what they saw on their radars.
- What does the success of this spoofing demo means for the transportation industry at large? Humphreys has testified before Congress on the topic of spoofing drones, and believes strongly that this is a real threat that needs to be addressed. This is not only a threat to navigation security, this is a threat to all facets of the transportation industry, including commercial airlines.
- What are the implications for the navigation sector? With more than 90 percent of the world's cargo moving across the seas, it's an important issue.
- Todd Humphreys The University of Texas at Austin
- Andrew Scofield White Rose of Drachs
- Jashan Bhatti The University of Texas at Austin
- Kenneth Himschoot Himschoot Consulting
Sandra Zaragoza The University of Texas at Austin
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