Hacking Phone’s GPS: Can You and How to?

Here’s whether you can hack a phone’s GPS and how to:

Technically, the answer is yes, not really as long as you don’t have full access to the phone.

More specifically, the GPS location for an Android phone can be spoofed to mask the device’s location.

Even then, it’s hard to do without some assistance from the phone’s owner.

If you want to learn all about hacking a phone’s GPS and how you can do it too, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

How Does GPS Location Hacking Work?

GPS hacking is not like hacking in a traditional sense. It doesn’t really involve cracking passwords or firewalls or encryptions in order to take control of devices or systems. 

No, GPS hacking is all built on the concept of spoofing. This is a term for when you have a device that pretends to be a different device.

Here’s an example. Have you ever received a telemarketing call from a number that you know doesn’t belong to them? 

Person using GPS map on laptop.

Maybe the number was that of a friend or a family member, or even your own phone number. That’s the result of spoofing. 

The telemarketers are calling from their own line, but they use spoofing technology to trick your caller ID into thinking that the call is coming from a different number. They’re trying to trick you into answering.

GPS spoofing works in a similar way. Instead of cracking the GPS system itself, hackers use either hardware or software to send the wrong GPS coordinates in relation to your phone. 

The GPS system doesn’t really care about who or where you are. It’s just there to process signals and identify physical locations accordingly. 

Aerial view of city intersection with many cars and GPS navigation system symbols.

So, if your device, or a spoof of your device, sends the wrong signal, there’s nothing in the GPS system trying to catch the trick.

For this reason, GPS location hacking, when successful, is extremely effective. No one using GPS tracking will actually know where the device is located, and they won’t even be able to tell that the signal is coming from a spoof.

Technically, spoofing and hacking are different concepts, but to keep things simple, we can use the terms interchangeably for the rest of this conversation.

Software GPS Hacks

When you think about GPS hacking, you might imagine someone at a keyboard in a basement digitally attacking your phone to mess with the GPS signal. 

Hacking GPS in that way is extremely difficult. You can’t attack the signal in-route the way you can other types of communication. 

And, because the entire GPS satellite system is maintained by the U.S. military, it’s not a popular tactic to go after the system itself. At least, it isn’t for your normal, everyday hackers.

Satellite orbiting the earth.

It’s also extremely complicated to try to attack the GPS system as a whole. Even if you could, parsing through the billions of transmissions running through the system is next to impossible.

Instead, software hacks only work when malicious software is installed on your personal device. That’s the point of vulnerability. When that is the case, it’s not terribly difficult. 

The software can use location settings and systems to send out falsified coordinates, and the GPS system will never know the difference. 

The trick here, though, is that such an app has to have root access. That means it can’t self-install. You have to give it permission.

It’s why unintended GPS hacks of this nature are very uncommon.

Hardware GPS Hacks

Hardware hacks are another story. This is actually the easier way to “hack” the phone’s locations, and here’s how it works.

Basically, you use another nearby device to send a stronger GPS signal that drowns out the one sent by your phone. This other device can send whatever coordinates are programmed into it. 

Hand held outdoor GPS and a map.

So, when this masking is done, anything that is trying to receive coordinates from your phone will receive the fake coordinates instead.

Depending on the device, there might be a number of countermeasures designed to keep this type of spoofing from working. Whether or not those defenses work depends on a lot of factors. 

It all boils down to a battle of the signals. You can expect that the spoofing device will have a stronger signal, but the phone can use codes and signal processing to get the correct coordinates out anyway. 

The short version of this story is that hardware hacking is unreliable at best, but it is technically possible.

Woman hand using smartphone with gps navigator map icon outdoors on street.

There’s another element to this story. These types of hardware spoof only mask the raw GPS signal that runs through the GPS satellite system. 

There are other location services used by your phone, and this type of spoofing won’t mask them. Cell tower or Wi-Fi location services work on completely different functions. 

GPS spoofing might trick the satellites, but it has to be combined with additional methods to completely mask all location services.

Why Would Anyone Hack GPS Locations?

We’ve established that GPS hacking is hard. Why would someone want to go through that effort?

Most hacking endeavors are based on money. Ransomware is one of the best examples. 

GPS map with man manipulating in the background.

Groups use malicious software to lock businesses out of their own systems and charge a bunch of money to restore that access. It’s a financial motivation, and you can find that’s the case for many hacks.

But, how could someone make money off of spoofing your location? For the most part, they can’t. 

One of the reasons that GPS location hacking is rare is that there is no common motivation to do it. It’s a major undertaking that offers no direct reward.

That’s why the majority of GPS hacking is initiated by the device’s owner. That’s right. 

Old GPS navigator in hand outdoors.

In most cases, GPS coordinates are spoofed because the person who owns the phone doesn’t want their location tracked. We’ll get into that more in a moment.

The other major motivation is research. Security experts often try to find ways to hack things just so they can build better defenses. That is certainly the case for some GPS hacking.

Still, there are malicious attacks on GPS locations, and we can cover that too.

Malicious GPS Hacking

Maliciously hacking GPS locations requires a lot of work. Most of the known cases are entirely related to geopolitics or research. 

Researchers have hacked devices just to see if it works. This is not typically malicious, but a malicious hack would probably use similar tactics.

Military man controls quadrocopter flight.

In geopolitics, it is believed that Iranian intelligence operators spoofed the GPS of a U.S. military drone in order to commandeer it. Other instances may have happened, but it is not openly discussed and reported.

The greater point here is that GPS hacking is complicated and difficult enough that it isn’t a profitable or desirable use of time unless funded by intelligence organizations or research groups. It really is that tough.

Masking Your Own GPS Location

On the other hand, a lot of users would like to make their location anonymous at will. There are countless reasons to want this. 

GPS and online map route to location.

If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. It’s why there are apps and resources specifically designed to help consumers mask their locations at will.

When you have cooperation from the device owner, hacking the GPS location becomes an entirely different idea and process.

How Can You Spoof Your GPS Location?

The easiest way to do this is to use a location spoof app. They take advantage of a feature built into your Android operating system. 

The operating system designers actually wanted users to have this option. It’s still tricky to do on your own, but app developers have made it quite accessible.

Hand-held phone with gps or locator.

A few prominent apps are known to work. Keep in mind that none of this constitutes an endorsement of these apps.

That said, unlike the hacking methods above, these apps spoof your location across all location services. That includes GPS, W-Fi and cellular location tracking.

Tenorshare iAnygo

Even though we’re focusing on Android devices, this app is designed for iOS. I figure Apple users might want to join in on masking their location. 

Woman using her smartphone.

The cool thing about Tenorshare iAnygo is that it doesn’t require you to jailbreak your device. It’s also on the App Store, which means it got through Apple’s quality inspection process. 

That suggests that Apple is also ok with users masking their locations.

VPNa

Getting into Android apps, VPNa is well known. They offer a range of VPN services, and those are great for disguising your IP address and location when you are online. 

Hand holding mobile phone with VPN setting on the screen close-up view photo

The Fake GPS Location service available from BPNa adds GPS spoofing to the mix. It lets you change your GPS location that is sent to apps, services and anyone else trying to find you. 

You can get it from the Play Store, and it’s pretty easy to use.

Fly GPS

Fly GPS is probably the most well-known spoofing app. It makes it extremely easy to spoof your location however you like. 

Mobile smart phone using for GPS navigator.

They even made a digital joystick interface that turns your GPS spoofing into a game. You can have fun with it.

More to the point, Fly GPS is a complete app and hits all of the onboard location services, meaning you are completely masking your location when you choose to use it.