Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation.

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by EA1BDF, Aug 10, 2017.

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  1. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    GPS is really hard to jam or spoof for any extended period or for any large area. Loran is just another radio navigation system and would be just as vulnerable to spoofing and jamming. Loran is not the solution to this problem. The military already have a backup for GPS so this is not for them. This is for commercial shipping in the case of pranksters and malicious actors so that ships will not be put at risk of getting lost.

    Today people can get a device that can do celestial navigation (with perhaps questionable accuracy) for less than a kilobuck. It also is water proof, contains it's own 12 hour (or better) battery, and fits in a back pocket. Not that long ago this would have been prohibitively expensive. This is a much better solution than Loran unless they have a trick up their sleeve they have not revealed yet.

    Much of the same can be said for inertial navigation. I remember reading about a proposed device for firefighters and such for navigating inside buildings. They'd get a reference point from GPS or something at the entrance but once inside this thing is supposed to give enough accuracy of location to find doors and hallways in a smoke filled building. This is supposed to handle being bounced down stairs and carried by someone tripping over fallen debris, not bolted to the floor of a ship. On a ship they have effectively unlimited space and power for such a system. That article I read about inertial navigation system for firefighters had to be years ago now, certainly they have improved it since.

    The assumption with Loran as a backup is that it is of sufficient power to make jamming and spoofing difficult. This can be proven false in the case of state actors and determined pranksters. With a celestial navigation system using a broadcast time signal it may be possible to mess with it using a false time signal. This should be easily dealt with by using multiple time sources (including GPS and internal clock) and ignoring obviously false transmissions. Large deviations in a time signal can be obvious, small deviations perhaps less obvious but also not likely to send a ship wildly off course either.

    I remember hearing of a demonstration of a common vulnerability in many GPS receivers. What is was is someone transmitted a false GPS satellite signal that indicated a stationary satellite located at the center of the earth, this caused a divide by zero error and crashed some systems. Unless this new Loran is tested sufficiently then how do we know it won't be equally vulnerable?

    Instead of having these ships buy a new Loran receiver tell them to load a celestial navigation app on their phone and bring it out if GPS fails. No one is going to blow up the sun and moon to put ships off course.
  2. W4HM

    W4HM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I know that this is off topic but the undersea fiber optic communication cables connecting every continent are very vulnerable to sabotage. More than a few countries have undersea vehicles designed to easily cut any cable they want whenever they want even in very deep water.

    The undersea cables are pretty much EMP proof.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
  3. K6MFW

    K6MFW Ham Member QRZ Page

    In another forum where people are debating this cyber threat for ships, someone mentioned the sextant is immune to spoofing and jamming. But followed with comment, "nature already has. They're called clouds."

    Regarding ships, a recent IEEE Spectrum had cover story that soon many cargo and tanker ships will not have anyone on board. With modern navigation probably can operate completely by themselves, or controlled remotely. This will be a huge paradigm shift for merchant ship industries. Even the US Navy is looking into unmanned vessels or ships with more automation and less crew.

    Some years ago I met a 90 something who flew Pan Am clipper planes, then became an instructor pilot during WWII, after that flew for Pan Am. He mentioned when LORAN first came out many were dubious about it and took some time for pilots and captains to accept it.

    Regarding navigation, I think still need the fundamentals but maintaining skills of classic nav can be time consuming. It seems trend to do the easy way like GPS nav for cars, but for me being from the 20th century the map is so much easier to understand and predict. I ***can't*** stand following a script "in one half mile prepare to turn left" meanwhile you really don't have the big picture.
  4. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page


    With all of the crap computers are putting there now don't help either.
  5. AJ4CU

    AJ4CU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As far as I know there is no substitute for a good quality sextant, the issue is being able to properly use one.
    There is truly no arguable substitute for celestial navigation, sure you can use a GPS but what if you are in a part of the ocean where there are strong tidal forces at work and you lose your GPS?
    no one can dead reckon that accurate without the assistance of a proper sight.
    Even with just a sun and moon shot you can navigate well, some claim to be able to be accurate with just sun shots, I have never tried this but I have been accurate to a mile using celestial navigation.

    Being able to use a sextant is actually quite easy if properly instructed, I learned from an oil tanker master ( my grandfather) at a very young age, any sailor worth his salt should be able to navigate this way.
    W5THJ and AK7ER like this.
  6. WA7WJR

    WA7WJR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just to be clear...

    AIS is not a navigation system. It is an identification system. It does provide proximity warning and also collision track warning only if the other vessel also has AIS. AIS is often interfaced with chartplotters, radar systems, and radio systems on many modern vessels, both small and large.

    Radar is a different animal. Most modern radar systems also have proximity and collision track warning system/alarm, even if the other vessel does not have radar. Radar can be used for navigation also when close to land. (There aren't too many landmarks in open sea...and that really large swell tends to move.)

    At sea there are many more natural variables at play than with an automobile such as winds, waves, currents, tidal rips, etc. Also, while commercial vessels use a VTS system in and around port areas, they are free to plot favorable courses while at sea.
    AK7ER likes this.
  7. W4HM

    W4HM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was involved in marine and port safety and security law enforcement in the U.S. Coast Guard in the 1980's and regularly saw shockingly dangerous things occur on commercial ships WITH trained people onboard. I just can't fathom remote controlled ships buzzing around with no one onboard especially in coastal areas.

    In the 1990's as a civilian meteorologist I produced track routing and weather forecasts for the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean basins and with the severe storms regularly encountered once again I just can't imagine remote controlled ships.

    If it comes to fruition it's going to be a catastrophe in many ways, from loss of life, cargo and ship and environment, think the Exxon Valdez. You can only go so far in replacing people with technology and robotics.
    WA7WJR and AK7ER like this.
  8. GJ7DNI

    GJ7DNI Ham Member QRZ Page

  9. GJ7DNI

    GJ7DNI Ham Member QRZ Page

    fine if you what to be 50 nm out he he:D
  10. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Now this is getting ridiculously embarrassing for the USN.

    Something is really broken in naval and maritime operations for these collisions to keep happening so often. And technology, of all types, seem to be not only not helping, but probably exacerbating the incidence.

    Not just back up or stronger marine nav-aids or lack of adequate CAS stuff, but probably lax human disciplines and other psycho-factors, ie, iPod, Gameboy,and Smartfone distractions.
    W5BIB likes this.

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