College Students Use Fake GPS Signals to Commandeer $80M Yacht

The boat did not belong to Michael Arrington. :(

(Photo: screenshot)
(Photo: screenshot)

While other college students conquered the kegstand and crossed “motorboating” off their To Do lists last June, a handful of University of Texas students were acting out their inner pirate. The Houston Chronicle reports that students from the school of engineering worked with their professor to develop a device that approximates the spoofing fad of the early aughts, remotely taking control of a luxury yacht sailing the Mediterranean.

The device broadcast false GPS signals to the yacht, slowly ratcheting up the intensity of the signals so as not to alert the ship’s alarm, before gaining complete control over the ship’s GPS system. Then, the students controlling the device changed the course of the ship; because of the hacked GPS system, the ship crew believed they were still on the correct course. (Sadly, the ship’s owner agreed to participate in the project, so the yacht wasn’t crashed on the lawn of a frat.)

The students at UT Austin believe that the ease with which their device took over the ship demonstrates gaping security holes in seafaring vehicles. Not to mention it could also theoretically be used on other methods of transportation that rely heavily on GPS.

Anybody want to try this on Michael Arrington’s boat?

[youtube=] College Students Use Fake GPS Signals to Commandeer $80M Yacht