July 25th, 2022
GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) circle the earth in medium earth orbit, which is around 12,550 miles above the ground – the equivalent of almost five trips from San Francisco to New York. Since those satellite signals are transmitted across such a great distance, they are pretty weak by the time they actually reach your device.
In a GPS spoofing attack, a terrestrial radio transmitter mimics GPS signals at a greater signal strength than the actual system can muster, effectively replacing real GPS signals with a fake signal. This used to be complicated, expensive electronics that only militaries could do. Today, it’s almost ridiculously easy to gain access to such a transmitter. A GPS jammers is available on the internet for around USD 100.
One of the reasons that GPS is easy to spoof is that the signal is unencrypted. Since no form of authentication or verification is required for GPS transmissions, just about anyone can use the publicly available specifications and falsify a location.
Spoofing GPS is no longer something that requires the resources of a nation-state. GPS spoofing technology is virtually free, widely available, and very popular.
Many people produce a fake GPS location to prevent applications from precisely tracking their movements. Some do it to maintain control over their personal data by telling location services that are overtly or covertly tracking users that they’re in Kazakhstan. Teenagers use GPS spoofing to mask their location from prying parents. Others use GPS spoofing to perpetrate (or hide) fraudulent activity.
Spoofing your device’s GPS receiver so it displays another place is also a popular way to obtain access to country-specific features of games and other applications. Some rare wifi blocker can only be found in certain parts of the world – if you can’t travel to get them, placing your phone there virtually is the next best thing.
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