top of page

Threat Models and Use Cases for Multimodal Transportation

Project Description:  This project will leverage our experience with aviation interference evaluation scenarios for adaptation to surface transportation.  Airborne receivers already have requirements to maintain integrity in the presence of RFI—specifically, to not generate errors that threaten user safety with a greater-than-allowed probability—even at high RFI power levels. Further, the receivers are required to return to normal operations within specified time periods after removal of the interfering signals.  Compliance to these requirements are evaluated through a series of tests. For example, several tests require simulation of aircraft trajectories that have an aircraft overfly an emitter radiating either jamming or spoofing signals at specified power levels. At RFI power levels below a specified threshold, the receiver must operate normally (i.e., meet all requirements for nominal operations). When RFI power surpasses the threshold, the receiver must not produce misleading information. It may warn the user that it is unable to output a trusted position, or it may have the ability to continue to operate. The simulation scenarios are based on observed flight experience and tests with active RFI and spoofing from controlled emitters and are chosen from scenarios most likely to stress a receiver's ability to meet safety requirements. 

This project will leverage the existing aviation knowledge-base to develop spoofing and jamming evaluation scenarios for other transportation modes. The first goal is to identify a limited number of representative scenarios that can be used to test a GNSS receiver’s ability to meet specified requirements. We will focus on our committed Advisory Board partners at the Ports of Virginia and Long Beach, which combine maritime, rail, and trucking in a relatively compact area. Emitters can enter this environment in several ways, four of which will be examined here: (1) a constantly-powered-on emitter enters a terminal within a shipping container unbeknownst to the ship’s crew; (2) an intermittent emitter installed on a truck for “personal privacy” enters one of the port delivery areas; (3) a high-power emitter suddenly transmits from the nearby Norfolk Naval Station; and (4) one or more deliberate (hostile) emitters are introduced in a manner designed to delay detection while causing substantial harm. As the power of these emitters is varied, their impacts, if not mitigated, could extend beyond a single port-terminal to affect the operations of the entire complex. The role of our proposed R-PNT solutions is to mitigate these effects so that disruption to loading/unloading and shipping operations is minimized. These threat models for multimodal port operations will then serve as prototypes to develop testable CAV threat scenarios. 

US DOT Priorities:  This research project directly targets the US DOT’s research priority area of Reducing Transportation Cybersecurity Risks. We will create test scenarios that can be used to evaluate a system’s ability to detect and ideally reject misleading RFI.  Such tests provide a method for the end user to determine the effectiveness of proposed mitigation solutions and to gain confidence in their ability to function both in the presence of RFI and to recover to a normal state afterwards.  Equipment that fails to function under such scenarios will be identified.  Further, these tests can be used to determine specific issues that need to be addressed and be used to help improve the system’s overall performance.  The resulting scenarios would be used to determine which systems should be deployed in operation and to provide confidence that such systems are sufficiently reliable. 

Outputs:  In this cross-cutting project, we propose to: 

  • Use the RFI knowledge base developed for aviation applications to analyze cyber-physical threats that can impact multiple modes of surface transportation. 

  • Define jamming and spoofing scenarios for the example multimodal port operations and extension to example CAV applications. 

  • Evaluate operational benefits of various degrees of receiver robustness to potential attacks. 

We expect interest in this research from GNSS receiver manufacturers and will actively encourage those on CARNATIONS External Advisory Board to contribute feedback and collaborate throughout the effort.  

Outcomes/Impacts:  GNSS radio-frequency interference can cause widespread delays or cascading failures across multiple modes of transportation. The aim of this project is to determine the most challenging scenarios and develop tests that can be used by receiver manufacturers to evaluate how robust their equipment is against different forms of attack. The results of this project will be shared with the DOT, GNSS researchers, industry, and  standardization bodies.  

Final Research Report:  (Upon completion of the project we will a provide link to the final report.)  

bottom of page