Israeli Air Base Is Linked to GPS ‘Spoofing’ Attacks

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have identified an Israeli air base as a key source of GPS attacks that have disrupted civilian airline navigation in the Middle East.

The attacks, known as spoofing, send out manipulated GPS signals that make airplane instruments misread their location.

The researchers, Todd Humphreys and Zach Clements, said they are “highly confident” that the spoofing attacks originated from Ein Shemer Airfield in northern Israel. The Israeli military declined to comment on Tuesday.

The researchers used data that was emitted by the spoofer and picked up by satellites in low-Earth orbit to determine its location. They then confirmed their calculations using data they collected on the ground in Israel.

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 Middle East has emerged as a spoofing hot spot. The University of Texas researchers did not say how many spoofing attacks they had linked to the military base, but a separate analysis estimated that more than 50,000 flights have been spoofed in the region this year.

The attacks have made pilots think that they were above airports in Beirut or Cairo when they were not, according to researchers at SkAI Data Services and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, who analyzed data from the OpenSky Network.

Swiss International Air Lines say their flights are spoofed almost every day over the Middle East.

Separately, Estonia and other Baltic nations have blamed Russia for disrupting signals in their airspaces. In April, Finnair temporarily suspended flights to an Estonian airport after turning back two flights because of severe GPS jamming.

The attacks now cover large swaths of the globe far from any battlefield.

In addition to causing navigation confusion, spoofing can trigger false alerts that airplanes are too close to the ground. But the attacks have not yet made flying dangerous because pilots can use alternative navigation methods.

“Losing GPS is not going to cause airplanes to fall out of the sky,” said Jeremy Bennington, vice president of Spirent Communications, which provides testing for global navigation systems. “But I also don’t want to deny the fact that we are removing layers of safety.”

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