Every device today can geolocate itself. The gadget does it thanks to the GPS — Global Positioning System that is using a satellite to receive data about the location. It’s a rather valuable feature that we use and enjoy every day for different needs. However, it can be a vulnerable spot that might make you suffer from hackers.
Do you need geolocation?
Before we dive into the nuances of how GPS can be a threat to your privacy, let’s see if you need this feature at all since it might be dangerous.
To be absolutely honest, you can be fine without using geolocation. You could use physical maps when you need to get somewhere, enter your address manually when you’re ordering food delivery, switch from Uber to taxi you can call via phone — you got the point.
Geolocation makes our everyday lives more streamlined and smooth. It allows us to call a cab or order food with a couple of clicks, it helps us get to the destination point as quickly as possible, it lets us track our workouts — pretty much any app uses GPS for certain purposes. Instagram uses it to offer you geotags, for example.
But geolocation is a useful source of data that can be used both by marketing managers and malefactors. We’ve put them in the same line because in both situations you’re the victim. Marketing managers will bomb you with annoying ads that will make you feel like you’re being watched — and you are, in fact. And hackers can spoof your GPS for their malicious needs.
How can your GPS get spoofed?
First, let’s figure out what is GPS spoofing. It’s an attack that aims at overriding the geolocation of your device. The hacker broadcasts a fake location to your gadget making it display the wrong GPS data. Or you could download some suspicious apps that will make other apps believe that the device is located in some other place than it really is.
As GPS data includes the time and date — which are different in most locations — your device might travel in time slightly.
Just several years ago it was very expensive to spoof the GPS, and this technique was used only for military needs. It allowed to fake the locations on military planes, ships, and vehicles to get the enemy confused. Today it’s still used for these needs. But also, now generic hackers can use GPS spoofing as radio signal transmitters became portable and quite cheap.
Also, a hacker can spoof your location if they get your IP address. And, in fact, you can kind of spoof your location intentionally if you want to appear as if you’re located in another country — by using a VPN.
Why do hackers spoof GPS?
It might seem to be a weird concept that someone wants to fake your location considering that you’re not a person of much interest — meaning that you’re not in the middle of some war or something like that. However, GPS spoofing can help malefactors track down truck drivers, for example, and take away their cargo.
But most users seem to be not very appealing targets for GPS spoofing. However, there are some reasons for hackers to apply this technique to you or to someone you know. Malefactors can spoof the GPS of a child to make it hard for parents to track their kids. Or they could fake the location of a group that decided to take a long trip into the woods to make them get lost and benefit from them somehow.
Also, hackers can spoof your GPS to feed your apps with false data to infect your device. Who knows what are the other reasons for malefactors to target you — their techniques get advanced all the time.
How to stay safe?
It’s impossible so far to keep your GPS protected while it’s on. Security specialists are working on the protection, but at the moment there is no solution. So the only way you can remain safeguarded is to keep your geolocation off most of the time. Turn it on only when you need it, and don’t forget to turn it off immediately.
There are some apps that can detect a GPS spoofing attack and remove your gadget from a system making all other programs think that you’re standing at one spot. But it’s simpler to just keep your GPS off when you don’t need it.
If you need to spoof your own GPS for some reason — say, you want to access geo-restricted websites — you can use iNinja that will change your location. Also, our VPS will keep you safe from IP-based attacks, so we advise you to turn on iNinja every time you’re using a public WiFi.
Geolocation is not a bad tool, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. If you’re not a person of interest, it’s quite unlikely that you become a target. Yet, create a habit of keeping your GPS off when you’re not using it anyway.