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GPS satellite gets a digital twin to ensure cyber security

March 18, 2020  - By
Artist's rendering: U.S. Air Force

Artist’s rendering: U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force is using a digital replica of a GPS IIR satellite to detect any cyber-security issues, reports Air Force Magazine.

Booz Allen Hamilton created the “digital twin” of the Lockheed Martin-built Block IIR GPS satellite — and then tried to hack the system.

“The satellite itself was on orbit,” BAH Vice President Kevin Coggins told Air Force Magazine. “So we built this digital model … and then we went looking for vulnerabilities. We did [penetration] testing and we saw what we could discover.”

The project is in response to a congressional mandate to test GPS for cyber vulnerabilities. Testing areas include the satellite, ground control stations and the radio-frequency links between them. BAH then conducted “man-in-the-middle” attacks on the communication links to identify potential weaknesses between the satellite and its ground control station.

The 12 Block IIR legacy satellites, launched between 1997-2004, were designed for a 7.5 year lifespan, but it will be years before they can be decommissioned.

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.