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GPS Circle Spoofing and Electronic Attacks

Feb 11, 2021 15:00 IST

In December 2011, Iran captured a state-of-the-art American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 ‘Sentinal’ drone. The capture helped Iran copy and produce its indigenous drone within one year. Iran said the RQ-170 drone operating across the border in Afghanistan was electronically commandeered by Iran’s cyber warfare unit and made to land at an Iranian airfield by sending false signals to the drone’s GPS receiver in order to capture it. US government officials were of the view that this kind of spoofing was not possible. However, several months later Professor Todd Humphreys of Texas University demonstrated how this could be done by spoofing a drone and landing it in the university’s football stadium. Following this, US officials admitted spoofing is possible, but denied this happened to the RQ-170 flown by the CIA which was captured by Iran. But the US denial was possibly a face saver because no other explanation of how the drone was captured could be provided.