User applications need secure technology

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19 April 2010

Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) have become a critical component of our modern day infrastructure and services. Ensuring its security is vital to realising the full market potential of GNSS, speakers said at a session on technologies for applications, 5 March, at Galileo Application Days in Brussels.

“The projected worldwide market for GNSS technology, applications and services is counted in hundreds of billions of euros,” said Michel Bosco, Deputy Head of the unit responsible for Satellite Navigation Applications in the European Commission.

The Commission is looking at how best to cluster resources to support GNSS research said Michel Bosco. Photo: Tim ReynoldsThe Commission is looking at how best to cluster resources to support GNSS research said Michel Bosco. Photo: Tim Reynolds

But this breakthrough technology is receiving relatively little research funding for applications in Europe compared to major competitors, such as the US. Bosco welcomed a manifesto launched by Galileo Services -- a non-profit grouping of businesses and academics -- calling for increased support for GNSS applications research and development in Europe.

“The Commission is looking at how best to cluster resources to support this research,” said Bosco.

Security matters

Olivier Crop, head of the security department of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA), said security of applications mattered to everyone. Indeed, the success of GNSS attracts attacks, such as signal spoofing to disrupt location services.

With GNSS becoming a vital component of critical infrastructure management, such as for the aviation sector and for energy grid control, foiling such attacks is crucial to ensuring trust in the system.

“Such attacks might be unintentional interference, nuisance and criminal interference or jamming, or they might be politically motivated,” he said. “And bad security can be worse than no security at all. It may not address the real threats, have cost impacts and give a good feeling of security but not provide it in reality.”

David Last, a consultant engineer and expert witness, outlined a number of recent exercises and accidents that had underlined the potential vulnerability of GNSS to attack. The dramatic consequences of a failure of a system had “quietly become a critical part of our infrastructure”, he said.

“The Achilles heel of GNSS is the extremely weak signals that the satellites transmit,” said Last. “It is equivalent to the power of a car headlight that must cover half the world’s surface.”

This factor made jamming GNSS signals relatively simple. Jamming equipment was now readily available and able to cover all current and future GNSS systems. The spoofing of GNSS signals, in which false location data is transmitted in place of the real GNSS signals, was also a clear security threat.

Last recommended that providers need to provide alternative, non-GNSS backup for critical systems. The backup can take over when GNSS has a “bad hair day”, he said. Satellite navigation was no longer simply about determining location, but about doing it reliably and robustly. The solution was to combine GNSS with other technologies and techniques.

These issues were elaborated further by Jim Hammond, a Chief Superintendent from the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers who is involved in its ITS Working Group. He highlighted the threat posed by cheap and effective devices that were becoming available to “medium and lower-end criminals”.

Currently the police had no detection capability for detecting GPS jammers. “We need a low-cost, portable detection capability that is effective but cheap that can be installed in all police vehicles,” said Hammond.  “We also need effective legislation with penalties that will act as a deterrent.” Possession of a jamming device should be made illegal.

A potential help could be the integration of micro electromechanical sensors (MEMS) into GNSS systems according to Marc Revol of Thales. The use of MEMS could improve receiver performance in challenging environments and assist in secure operations. Inertial sensors could be easily integrated and provide a cost-effective improvement of GNSS signal weaknesses. Such sensors could also provide continuity in determining location during a GNSS outage.

The concept of an autonomous trusted time stamping authority was outlined by Christophe Taillandier, a project manager with the France Développement Conseil, a consultancy. Time stamping had a wide range of applications for laboratory notebooks, patent registration and security. The FDC's GEODatage application, which is based on EGNOS, has the ability to detect spoofing, he said.

Receivers and maps

Alain Suskind of Septentrio Satellite Navigation described future professional applications for high-end GNSS receivers that would require precision of one metre or less and accurate 3-D positioning down to a few centimetres.

“This would allow a move from remote machine guidance to true machine control for higher productivity,” he said.

Future receivers would need to be able to support current and future GNSS and cope with multi constellations. “Users want their GPS applications to work everywhere, which means hybrid solutions,” he stated.
According to Edwin Bastiaensen of TeleAtlas, 27% of all cars are equipped with some form of satellite navigation today in Europe. A new generation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) was in development and required greater map accuracy. Such a high resolution is being achieved with input from the user community. This user data is also helping create new content, including real-world data on mobility behaviour and energy use, among other information, and provides more efficient guidance.

Real-time dynamic content is important to future mapping applications such as intelligent traffic management, which requires a standard data exchange for effectiveness. TeleAtlas is promoting open dynamic location referencing – OpenLR – which could become a royalty-free industry standard. This open approach should encourage integration and open the market for location-based services.

ESNC security successes

Two winners in the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) gave brief overviews of their security applications. Robert Carter described the IPAYMO application, which uses GNSS-based multifactor authentication methodologies to provide secure payment on the move. The system introduces a location-based authentication factor that can be used with current infrastructure. “IPAYMO focused on the credit card sector but other uses such as secure access services are possible,” said Carter.

“Maritime safety and security is well covered in coastal waters, but on the high seas there is no economical, comprehensive method except from space,” said Abe Bonnema of Innovative Data Services. His company aims to provide the position, heading and identification information for every shipping vessel in the world in a timely manner by monitoring their automatic identification system signals via low earth orbit satellites. This service will improve operational efficiency in global maritime logistics and improve security.

Trust in FP7

The final presentations in the session covered new security applications funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). The Trusted GNSS Receiver (TIGER) project was described by Christian Wullems of Qascom, the project's coordinator.

The TIGER receiver uses civilian GNSS signals and is suitable for mass market applications. According to Wullems, TIGER addresses spoofing and can detect of in-band interference. The first embodiment of TIGER's technology brought to market will be a secure GNSS token, but he also saw applications in digital rights management.

Similarly the new ATLAS (Authenticated location with commercial LBS) project will provide an improved location-based “shoot and proof” system to deliver secure certified digital pictures that are geo-tagged and time-stamped.

William Roberts from Nottingham Scientific Ltd, the project's coordinator, outlined how ATLAS brings together a number of existing technology assets in one system, allowing it to achieve some ambitious targets.
“An authenticated GNSS service should be available within one year,” he said.

Galileo Application Days

Galileo Application Days, 3-5 March, kicked off this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC). Live demonstrations of cutting-edge satellite navigation applications using EGNOS and Galileo were held at the event’s ‘Application Village’.

The event was hosted by the European Commission and was organised by the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA) and the Application Centre for Satellite Navigation in Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), the managing organisation for ESNC (Galileo Masters).

Galileo is scheduled to become operational in 2014. Fully interoperable with the USA’s GPS and Russia's GLONASS systems, it will provide highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning services.

EGNOS is Europe’s ‘pre- Galileo' system. It improves the accuracy of the open public service offered by GPS.

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you do republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the GSA website (

More information:

EGNOS Portal
Galileo Application Days
Galileo Services

Updated: Sep 01, 2014