GPS spoofing is a form of attack that messes up your GPS results — and your plans. Imagine agreeing to meet a friend at a café you’ve never been to before. You are already 20 minutes late, but you’re confident your GPS will get you there. Suddenly your GPS shows that you are in a different country and the year on your phone turns to 2038. What just happened? Someone spoofed your GPS
GPS spoofing is an attack aimed at overriding a GPS-enabled device’s original location. To do so, the attacker uses a radio transmitter that broadcasts fake GPS signals and interferes with GPS receivers nearby. As a result, those devices display fake GPS locations. If they wish, smartphone owners can spoof their own GPS by downloading third-party apps, which fool other apps into thinking that the device isn’t at its original location.
The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which GPS (the Global Positioning System) is a part of, is also used to sync the date and time across devices around the world. So if your device is GPS spoofed, it might also suddenly show that you have traveled to the future or back in time.
GPS spoofing attacks used to be very expensive, which mostly relegated their use to warfare. Why? Because GPS spoofing can fake ships’, airplanes’, and vehicles’ locations to confuse the enemy. While it is still used for this purpose, location spoofing has since become accessible to ordinary hackers. All they need is a portable radio signal transmitter with open-source software, which can be bought for under $300.
The GPS finds your location by using satellites orbiting the Earth. These GPS satellites continuously transmit radio signals that your GPS-enabled device uses to triangulate your location.
The problem is that by the time these radio signals reach your device, they become fairly weak. This means that any transmitter with a stronger signal can cause a denial of service attack. The transmitter simply overpowers the signals and makes your device show whatever location it wants. Why is that a problem? Because any GPS device can be affected.
A GPS spoofing app falsifies the actual geographical location of your device. If you want to avoid GPS tracking — or broaden your dating pool — you might consider changing the actual geographical location displayed by your device. GPS spoofing works on iOS as well as on Android devices. However, these GPS location spoofers will make all your other apps think that you are somewhere else. You might not want to use them if you need reliable directions.
If you do not want to risk downloading a GPS spoofing app but still want more privacy and to expand your search results, you can change your location on Google Chrome.
You might have heard the term “spoofing” in other contexts as well. Aside from GPS spoofing, these are the other common types of spoofing:
Spoofing somebody’s device and changing its location without the owner’s consent is illegal. A fake GPS location can disrupt public services, and law enforcement takes this type of offense seriously. If you’re not planning a GPS spoofing attack or illegal activity and only want to change your own location, nobody will raise an eyebrow. However, fake GPS signals may be caught by accident, so you can do harm without even knowing about it.
Bear in mind that not everyone is eager for you to change your location. Advertisers love knowing and using your physical location to their advantage — this is called geotargeting. It is a form of advertising that sends smartphone users targeted content and advertisements based on their geographical location. It is typically done by apps that you have granted access to your GPS location, like food delivery apps. However, multiple websites use trackers to find out information about you, including your location, without asking for your consent in advance. We advise using a tracker blocker to avoid this type of snooping.
Anti-GPS spoofing technology is being developed, but it may not be available (or necessary) for the average user any time soon. However, if you run a business, there are a few things you should do to protect yourself against a GPS spoof attack:
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