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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Detecting and Locating GPS Jammers: Jamming-Offenders can Net a $32K Fine if Caught

The CTL3500 provided by Chronos, can pinpoint the
location of GPS jammers.
One of the most infamous GPS jamming events in the history of GPS is arguably the San Diego Airport disruption. A single event brought the flight control room in the San Diego airport to its feet, wondering and panicking as to what was really going on. ATM machines refused customers , the harbor traffic management system was going haywire. All this because of a GPS jamming event. A clear indication that the GPS system does not just run the navigation system for vehicles; it does a lot more than that.

GPS is in a sense, is a silent force that powers the modern communication world. Mobile network service providers use GPS time signals to coordinate how your phone talks to the cell phone towers.

Electricity grids turn to GPS for synchronization when they are connected together. Banks and stock exchanges use the GPS/GNSS for time-stamping transactions without which electronic commerce would be rendered difficult if not nearly impossible.

A typical Chinese made GPS jammer.  They are illegal to
purchase or use inside the USA.  They are illegal to use
inside the UK, but not illegal to purchase.
The GPS jamming source was eventually identified after 3 days of investigation; a Navy exercise to test procedures when communication was down.

Technology R&D groups in the past have also jammed GPS signals unintentionally. Unfortunately, the jamming expertise was not just localized to the Navy or the Military. There was another infamous event where a truck driver was using a GPS jammer near an airport to avoid being tracked.  The driver has recently been identified and fined a harsh penalty; the maximum allowed by law.

GPS jamming devices are available for under $30 online but it’s illegal to use/buy such a device only in a few countries. Many across the world have not yet realized the danger and/or disruptions that these devices can cause to other businesses.

So is there anything that can be done to find these jammers?  Several systems have been proposed to identify or localize GPS jamming including ad-hoc networks - however, pinpointing jammers in crowded vehicle environments has been difficult; since detectors could only generally provide information about where a jammer might be located.

Now, Chronos is providing a  £1,600 ($2,145 USD) handheld GPS Jammer Detector and Locator System that can identify a jammer-using vehicle in a multistory car park – and can pinpoint portable devices in drivers’ pockets when they have left their cars. The system currently is limited to only L1 signal bands.

The FCC is implementing a $32K penalty for use of a GPS jammer by an individual; a relatively tidy sum if the jamming offender is caught - and with these new tools that is more likely to happen than ever before.