Nowadays GPS (Global Positioning System) usage is so common with almost all high end cellular phones are embedded with GPS receiver module. While it brings convenience to daily life, but too much relying on it may potentially cause serious issue in certain scenario. Just recently, a team of researchers from Cornell University have demonstrated a way on how to fool the GPS units by sending out false signal that imitate actual satellite signal patterns. Those signals will be interpreted by the GPS receivers as a genuine signal which causes the wrong position information being retrieved by end users. For normal consumers, it may be still alright but the consequence could be very serious especially when such a scenario happens in military applications.

GPS receiver is capable to lock to at least four satellites orbiting around the earth to obtain accurate positioning information through specific pattern signals. But somehow these signals can be duplicated by this programmable transmitter, putting the whole system reliability questionable. Although existing transmitter is quite large in size, about the size of a suitcase, but it is foresee that the size can be shrunk down as small as a cigarette pack, making the proximity attack possible anywhere without the users’ acknowledgment. Just imagine how dangerous would it be if this tiny device can jeopardize the whole rescue effort when a rescue team has been dispatched but unable to identify the right location due to wrong GPS data.

Hopefully the demonstration and study results will trigger the way how GPS designers defining their next generation GPS products with a more thorough and full proof GPS release to the market in short future.