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Advanced Quantum Technology to Counteract GPS Hacking

The world’s most ubiquitous navigation technology, GPS — or Global Positioning System — is vulnerable to hacking.

Professor Amr Helmy (ECE) from the University of Toronto

The world’s most ubiquitous navigation technology, GPS — or Global Positioning System — is vulnerable to hacking. This exposes potentially dangerous security risks in critical systems, from air traffic control to satellite communications.

Professor Amr Helmy (ECE) from the University of Toronto is working to harness cutting-edge approaches in quantum sensing to reduce the current reliance on GPS and introduce a more secure, accurate approach to mapping and navigation.

“Quantum sensing technology introduces ground-breaking approaches to measuring things,” said Helmy in a statement. “It’s an exciting time because it’s a challenging time. But there are emerging needs in both instrumentation technologies and insecurity, where quantum sensing is the answer.”

Quantum sensors have capabilities that extend beyond the reach of conventional systems of measurement: they rely on the ‘squeezing effect,’ whereby photons have the uncertainty inherent to their attributes minimized, to precisely measure the position of a location.

To develop new navigation tools, Helmy is using a design approach patented by his lab to integrate chip-based sources of quantum-squeezed light into existing optical gyroscopes.

Quantum sensing also provides a solution to security breaches. Unlike GPS platforms, quantum-enhanced navigation instruments do not rely on satellites to work, which makes them less vulnerable to hacking or spoofing – when a location falsely masquerades as something else.

GPS hacking and spoofing have made headlines around the world in recent years, from researchers successfully hacking a yacht’s navigation to bring it off its programmed course to the discovery of dozens of Russian ships whose GPS signals indicated they were on land when they were in fact out on sea.

“As such, there is an urgency to develop and understand the defense capabilities of these rapidly evolving quantum technologies,” added Helmy.

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