update deskMiddle East

Israeli air base source of GPS spoofing attacks, say researchers

The source of the disruptions was Ein Shemer Airfield, about four miles east of Hadera, they assert.

Parked airplanes at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 8, 2020. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Parked airplanes at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 8, 2020. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

University of Texas at Austin researchers say an Israeli Air Force base was the source of Global Positioning System spoofing attacks disrupting civilian airline navigation in the Middle East.

GPS spoofing manipulates data to make planes’ GPS receivers “think” they’re somewhere they’re not.

The researchers, Todd Humphreys and Zach Clements, said they were confident the spoofing came from Ein Shemer Airfield, about four miles east of Hadera, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

“Spoofing, along with GPS jamming, has sharply risen over the last three years, particularly near war zones in Ukraine and Gaza, where militaries interfere with navigation signals to thwart missile and drone attacks,” the paper said.

A separate analysis from that of the University of Texas found that more than 50,000 flights have been spoofed in the Middle East this year.

The Israeli military declined to comment for the report.

Spoofing attacks haven’t yet endangered flights as pilots have other methods of navigation as well, the paper noted.

Spoofing affects not just planes. In April, Israel drivers reported that navigation apps such as Waze, Google Maps and the taxi pickup app Gett were suddenly showing their locations in places they were definitely not—including as far away as Beirut in Lebanon.

Other GPS-reliant services such as the Wolt delivery platform were exhibiting the same bizarre location errors, falsely placing couriers in areas such as Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The disruptions were attributed to the IDF’s GPS jamming operations in the north amid rocket and drone attacks by Hezbollah.

“The disruptions are an effective tool to confuse a weapon that [uses] GPS [to navigate],” the former head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, Yigal Unna, told Ynet.

“Like any strong medicine, it has side effects, and in the meantime, I suggest going back to the maps once in a while. It can be managed. It’s not an attack—it’s a defense,” he said.

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