How Equinix Precision Time Mitigates Jamming and Spoofing Threats

Eliminating GNSS threats and risks to network time synchronization gets a boost from Equinix Precision Time

Ramki Ramakrishnan
How Equinix Precision Time Mitigates Jamming and Spoofing Threats

In today’s world, there are daily instances of attacks to Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, which include Global Positioning System (GPS), Galileo and other satellite-based radionavigation constellations. Government agencies, critical infrastructure, and enterprises typically use GNSS receivers to perform mission critical operations including geo-location and time synchronization for a variety of applications in our daily lives. GNSS systems are vulnerable to intentional or unintentional attacks, which are primarily jamming and spoofing that can disrupt the mission critical operations.

In response to these threats, Equinix has integrated industry leading hardware and software anti-jamming and spoofing technologies into the Equinix Precision Time™ infrastructure to mitigate these vulnerabilities. This will ensure that Equinix Precision Time service is able to deliver a resilient and a secure time synchronization service supporting industry standard protocols such as Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and Network Time Protocol (NTP). Customers use Equinix Precision Time via Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection to directly, securely and dynamically connect distributed enterprise applications running on Platform Equinix®.

Time as a Service for the digital edge

Get more information and technical specifications for Equinix Precision Time, a secure PTP and NTP Time as a Service for distributed enterprise applications on Platform Equinix®.

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GNSS jamming and spoofing – what’s the difference? 

Jamming refers to interference with signals at GNSS frequencies and can be caused either unintentionally or intentionally. Unintentional reasons can include space weather or faulty equipment that can inadvertently jam GNSS signal reception. Intentional jamming is designed to overpower a weak GNSS signal. Although it is illegal to jam GPS signals, individuals can use portable jammers available for purchase online.

Spoofing occurs when GPS simulators or custom-built systems are used to hack into a GPS system. The hacking causes the receiver to catch on to a new falsely generated signal, causing the GPS to lie to the user. It then tricks the GPS receiver into thinking it is at a different time and location thereby falsifying the location and time and ultimately disrupting the operation.

How does jamming and spoofing impact businesses?

Businesses that rely on GNSS infrastructure for accurate location and time synchronization include financial institutions, critical infrastructure, government agencies, transportation, broadcast and telecommunication companies.

When a network infrastructure using a GNSS receiver gets jammed, it will start to lose the time synchronization and ultimately impact the operation of the network. In the case of a communication network, it can impact the quality of the voice call or a video streaming service delivery. For a financial institution, the jamming can result in non-compliance—resulting in big fines and loss of credibility.

Spoofing involves a more malicious plan. Individuals who spoof often do so to cause harm, for personal, political, or financial gain, or because they are engaged in illegal activities–such as changing the timestamps for financial transactions. Financial and stock market transactions are marked with UTC time, which uses GNSS systems.

Managing jamming and spoofing threats effectively

Equinix Precision Time uses redundant and strategically located GPS antennas, receivers, grandmaster clocks, and the high-performance network backbone of Equinix Fabric to deliver secure, reliable, and precise time synchronization. Equinix Precision Time service infrastructure has integrated hardware and software technology capable of constantly monitoring the live sky signal from the GNSS to detect against the threat of jamming and spoofing issues. When a threat is detected the live-sky signal is disabled—thereby eliminating the threat—and an alarm is generated. Simultaneously, an atomic clock in the timing infrastructure delivers the precise time while the issue is addressed.

To illustrate this, recently, we mitigated a jamming issue in real-time without disrupting our service in one of our Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. A customer using our colocation services in the same IBX data center experienced jamming on their own antenna and GPS-based time server and could not reliably synchronize their infrastructure as they did not have the necessary technology and capabilities to address the situation. These examples support the importance of proactively addressing this issue.

Although jamming and spoofing have existed for years, businesses can now reduce these risks and protect themselves against the vulnerabilities. Companies can achieve higher levels of resiliency and security and have peace of mind by using a service equipped with GNSS risk mitigation capabilities, like Equinix Precision Time.

Learn more by downloading the Equinix Precision Time data sheet and register for a free trial of Equinix Precision Time.

When a threat is detected in real-time, the live-sky signal is disabled—thereby eliminating the threat—and an alarm is generated. Simultaneously, an atomic clock in the timing infrastructure delivers the precise time while the issue is addressed."
Ramki Ramakrishnan
Ramki Ramakrishnan Director Product Management, Equinix Precision Time Service