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Serious consequences of malicious jamming of GPS jammers

Gleason Arliss 2022/07/21

  A loophole in the law means that it is not illegal to buy or own them, closed down UK-based websites selling GPS jammers, it possible for the UK public to buy these devices from international sellers who sell them on auction sites for as low as £15. They are becoming more common on Britain’s roads – with potentially disruptive consequences.

  Most obviously, the GPS jammers will interfere with the GPS signals in their immediate area. Depending on weather conditions and the power output of the device, this could create a bubble of interference with a radius of up to 300m.

  In 2010 conducted an experiment aboard the lighthouse tender THV Galatea. Wanted to find out the effect a GPS jammer would have on the ship’s state-of-the-art navigation systems.

  When the jammer was turned on, many of the ship’s systems shut down. Alarms sounded and the satellite positioning system crashed, as did the navigational backup gyrocompass and the radar system. Even the satellite communication system stopped working, since it needs GPS to calibrate its directional antenna.

  There are over 1 billion GPS receivers estimated to be in use worldwide – but only about 10% of those use GPS for positioning. The rest of the devices only use the GPS network’s accurate timing system in order to synchronise their own systems. For this reason, GPS receivers can be critical in mobile phone towers, power grids and even cashpoint machines. Even a low power GPS blocker on a car dashboard has the ability to disrupt these systems if it passes close enough.

  In addition to being hazardous to aviation and shipping navigation systems, GPS jammers can also hamper both navigation and communication for emergency and rescue services, and other critical infrastructure. Safety experts have brought up the scenario of shipping cargo hijackers using GPS jammers and blockers while crossing a busy shipping lane such as the the English channel, and the fatal consequences this might have.

  The bottom line is that even the relatively low powered GPS jammers available online will disrupt GPS in a radius much greater than just your vehicle – and their signal will jam much more than just satnav systems.