Southwest Research Institute has developed a cyber security system to test for vulnerabilities in automated vehicles and other technologies that use GPS receivers for positioning, navigation and timing.
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) describe GPS spoofing as ‘a malicious attack that broadcasts incorrect signals to deceive GPS receivers, while GPS manipulation modifies a real GPS signal.
Victor Murray, head of SwRI’s Cyber Physical Systems Group in the Intelligent Systems Division, said that the project is ‘a legal way for us to improve the cyber resilience of autonomous vehicles by demonstrating a transmission of spoofed or manipulated GPS signals to allow for analysis of system responses.’
SwRI says that it has designed the new tool to meet United States federal regulations. Testing for GPS vulnerabilities in a mobile environment had previously been difficult because federal law prohibits over-the-air re-transmission of GPS signals without prior authorisation, the institute states.
SwRI’s spoofing test system places a physical component on or in line with a vehicle’s GPS antenna and a ground station that remotely controls the GPS signal. The system receives the actual GPS signal from an on-vehicle antenna, processes it and inserts a spoofed signal, and then broadcasts the spoofed signal to the GPS receiver on the vehicle.
While testing the system on an automated vehicle on a test track, SwRI says that engineers were able to alter the vehicle’s course by 10 meters, effectively causing it to drive off the road. The vehicle could also be forced to turn early or late.
‘Most automated vehicles will not rely solely on GPS because they use a combination of sensors such as lidar, camera machine vision, GPS and other tools,’ Murray said.
‘However, GPS is a basis for positioning in a lot of systems, so it is important for manufacturers to have the ability to design technology to address vulnerabilities,’ concluded Murray.