#hacking | Russian Hacking and Spoofing Threat to NATO Members

  • Belgian military will stop using GPS due to the Russia threat.
  • There have been 9,883 suspected incidents of GNSS hacking.
  • Russia can utilize low cost software to send spoofed GPS signals.

The Belgian army will stop using a GPS system due to a heightened risk of Russia’s disruption of the GPS signal. The Global Positioning System, originally NAVSTAR GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the US Air Force. The Belgian military will revert to the use of topographic maps and old fashioned compasses.

In modern mapping, a topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines. The announcement was made via De Morgen, a Flemish newspaper with a circulation of 53,860. The paper is published in Brussels.

Furthermore, Russia has been accused previously by Finland and Norway of interfering with the GPS signal during the NATO Trident Juncture Training exercise. The Trident Juncture 18, abbreviated TRJE18, was a NATO-led military exercise held in Norway in October and November 2018 with an Article 5 collective defence scenario. The exercise was the largest of its kind in Norway since the 1980s.

NATO publicly acknowledged the reckless Russian behavior of GPS signal interference. GPS is also a widely used application in the civilian world, including vehicles, phones, laptops, etc.

The US also believes that GPS is vulnerable to Russian and Chinese hacking. Merchant ships entering the Black Sea have reported the loss of the GPS signal near the Crimea. The same was reported previously in Syria, where the Russian troops were located. Israel accused Russia too of meddling with the GPS signal in their airports.

The Center for Advance Defense (C4ADS) released a report pertaining to the GPS Spoofing in Russia and Syria earlier this year.  C4ADS is a US based nonprofit organization dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide.

C4ADS undertook a year-long study on the numerous attacks that have happened to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System (GPS). The study shows that there have been 9,883 suspected incidents of GNSS hacking at more than 10 locations, including 1,311 civilian maritime vessel navigation systems since February 2016.

All these instances have a Russian footprint. Navigation systems sound alarms when they recognize jammers. Spoofing systems create false signals that confuse GNSS systems, leading to severe consequences. As per C4ADS, Russia easily can utilize low cost, commercially available ‘software-defined radios’ (SDR) and open-source code capable of transmitting spoofed GPS signals.

Full Report

Russia poses a true danger to the military and civilians in the West using GPS technology. Russia is notorious for hacking and has been utilizing a cyber warfare strategy for some time. The Kremlin conceptualizes cyber operations within the broader framework of information warfare, a holistic concept that includes computer network operations, electronic warfare, psychological operations, and information operations.

Russia is dangerous, due to their assumption of a more assertive cyber posture and based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure systems (GPS) and conduct espionage operations even when detected and even under public scrutiny.

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