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Session D6: Application/Impact of PNT Technologies in the Homeland Critical Infrastructure

How to (Easily) Ignore Geofencing of Protected Areas
Jonathan Taylor, Orolia Defense & Security
Location: Ballroom B
Alternate Number 2

Many pieces of critical infrastructure such as airports, military bases, and other government areas of interest have invisible ‘geofences’ surrounding them. These geo-fences are pre-programmed geospatial boundaries that often prevent equipment with GNSS receivers from operating within those boundaries. Specifically, many commercial drones are required to have these geo-fences built into their software so that they cannot operate near some pieces of critical infrastructure.
Commercial drones are the present interest of this talk because they are relatively inexpensive, and are easy to fly, or even preprogram a flight path based on GNSS waypoints. They can have flight ranges of multiple miles, transmitting live, high quality video back to the operator, and have the ability to carry additional peripherals or payloads. Though the current focus is drones, the same principles could easily apply to many smart vehicles of the future.
Of course, many drones are not equipped with GNSS, so geofencing will not affect them, but for such drones the flight paths are typically limited to line of sight. While cameras and other enhancements can be integrated, this requires much more knowledge and effort compared to readily commercially available solutions. If these nearly ready-to-go drones can easily ignore geofencing around critical infrastructure, they still pose a great threat.
Threats from aerial vehicles will be surveyed and examples will be given. Possible threats include, but are not limited to: intelligence gathering and surveillance through high definition video, cyber threat vectors through wireless Bluetooth technology, remote firearm discharge, explosive payload release or remote detonation, chemical or biological weapon payload delivery, and contraband smuggling. Threats from ground or marine vehicles could easily include inertial collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, or buildings and various payload deliveries. Any system that relies on geofencing, including future railways, or data security protocols are also vulnerable to geo-fencing work arounds.
This talk will show how easily a geo-fence can be ignored. It will walk through the process required to circumvent geofencing with inexpensive hobbyist hardware, allowing an operator to fly a drone wherever they choose. This process will also be shown to require very little knowledge of hardware, software, and navigation principles. Particularly, the author has no prior experience with hardware or firmware integration. The navigation knowledge required is limited to a very basic understanding of latitude, longitude, and the effects of map projections.
This research will show that, at best, geofencing makes it slightly more difficult for bad actors to attack critical infrastructure protected by geofences. The geofencing does a much better job of preventing otherwise law-abiding operators from unknowingly causing a disturbance. The benefit from preventing accidental operator mistakes is enough reason to employ geo-fencing, but there is still some benefit to reducing the ease of an attack.
The threat to critical infrastructure and human life is still present despite geo-fencing. This talks hopefully encourages regulators, law makers, manufacturers, and security personnel to not grow complacent with regards to protecting critical infrastructure using geo-fencing alone. This works shows that tamper proof GNSS receivers or other hardware and other data validation methods need to be included in new devices in order to protect against the demonstrated threat. Other methods of countering and deterring unwanted vehicles from operating in a given space should be considered and employed in addition to the geo-fencing layer.



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