Codebreaker

Drone downed by GPS?

Marc Sanchez Dec 16, 2011

There’s been a lot of political posturing coming from the United States and Iran over how a NATO drone ended up in Iranian hands. “No big deal,” says the U.S. “Let’s have a parade,” says Iran. The story of how that drone came to rest on Iranian soil may be told through GPS.
Iranian engineers claim to have hacked into the drone’s navigation system and tricked its GPS system into landing in Iran. The Christian Science Monitor reports: “Using knowledge gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone’s GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.”
This might be a cool trick to try the next time I need to take my kid to the dentist. Hey, let’s go to Disneyland. The GPS says turn left and park. Well, OK. Wait, this  isn’t Disneyland… it’s the dentist. The ensuing disappointment and tantrum might be a little too much to bear. Kinks need to be worked out.
As I was saying… drones. The U.S. military has known about this kind of GPS hack for a while. Again from the Christian Science Monitor: “Top US officials said in 2009 that they were working to encrypt all drone data streams in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – after finding militant laptops loaded with days’ worth of data in Iraq – and acknowledged that they were ‘subject to listening and exploitation.’”

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