GPS Security with SAASM


When considering GNSS security, maintaining the integrity of the signal provides protection against spoof attack that aim to fool the receiver’s perception location and time. As software-defined radio and signal processing technology advances, these types of GNSS attacks are becoming more sophisticated and prevalent.

One of the existing anti-spoofing technologies is the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) available for the GPS constellation. A SAASM-enabled GPS receiver allows an approved government or military user to access the encrypted P(Y) signal transmitted by the GPS constellation. This originally provided two benefits.

First, P(Y) provided higher location precision than what was available through the C/A signal. The U.S. government at one time introduced error into the C/A signal, making position location using it less accurate than what was available to P(Y) users. This “Selective Availability” was turned off by the US Government in 2000 to allow civil applications the full benefits of the GPS service.

The second benefit of SAASM is still available today. The encrypted P(Y) signal provides signal integrity assurance to protect against active spoofing attacks. One of the vulnerabilities of using just the C/A GPS signal is a walk-off attack. A spoofer can mimic the normal C/A signal, eventually slightly overcoming the ambient GPS signal strength. The spoofing signal can then slowly adjust to make the attacked receiver report and incorrect position and time. If done correctly, the C/A GPS receiver will not recognize the spoofing signal as an anomaly and reject it. But a receiver that decrypts the P(Y) signal will always have access to the “true” GPS signal.

SAASM is one part of a layered approach to GPS security. And while it only applies to the GPS constellation, Galileo users will soon have access to the Public Regulated System (PRS) which provides similar integrity assurance through signal encryption. Coupling SAASM receivers with other protection mechanisms like Safran anti-jam antennas and Broadshield spoofing detection provides powerful protection against modern threats to GPS services.

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Jon Sinden
Jon Sinden

Jon Sinden has over 16 years of experience designing, selling and implementing advanced networking communications and position, navigation and timing (PNT) systems for government and military organizations throughout the world. Jon also draws on 22 years of operational experience as a Field Artillery and Information Operations officer in the United States Army. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and Masters of Strategic Leadership and Masters of Strategic Marketing degrees from Roberts Wesleyan College.