As the popularity and uses of satellite-positioning technology of GPS devices continues to explode, people have developed a dependence on the Global Positioning System. Millions of consumers, businesses and the military all rely on GPS on a daily basis. A problem has arisen as to what can be done to stop deliberate and dangerous jamming of the satellite signals.
GPS jamming happens when GPS frequencies are disrupted and signals are blocked making them unreadable. Since GPS signals are already vulnerable because of their distance from the satellites, it is easy to cause an interference, especially on a small car or handheld GPS. The jammers can be switched on and off easily, forcing devices to recalibrate each time.
For years specialists have been warning that our growing dependency on these devices creates a potential vulnerability. In 2001 an industry report named GPS devices as a tempting target for exploitation by malicious persons. Currently, Americas GPS and Russias GLONASS are the only functioning global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), but Europes Galileo and Chinas COMPASS systems are under construction.
GPS jamming is a huge threat and concern because of its accessibility and low cost. For around $30, anyone can go online and purchase a GPS jammer the size of car cigarette lighter. These devices are illegal in the United States and most of Europe, nevertheless, the jammers can be bought online directly from factories in China. Since the websites advertise the jammers as privacy protectors and tracking blockers, the average consumer is unaware of the jammers’ capabilities to wreak havoc.
An excerpt from a recent article published in The Economist shares this story; “in late 2009 engineers noticed that satellite-positioning receivers for a new navigation aid at Newark airport in New Jersey were suffering brief daily breaks in reception. Something was interfering with the signals from orbiting global positioning system (GPS) satellites. It took two months for investigators from the Federal Aviation Authority to track down the problem: a driver who passed by on the nearby New Jersey Turnpike each day had a cheap GPS jammer in his truck.”
Even though these devices are illegal to sell or use, they have become popular with commercial drivers who object to their employers ability to track their every move. Currently, authorities lack the ability to locate, track or disable GPS jammers. It appears that GPS has become a victim of its own success. Because there is such a wide range of ever increasing uses for this technology, if somebody wishes to disable one GPS-based system, their actions can also interfere with other, unrelated systems.
With these jammers readily available, illegal behavior can easily be covered, turning jammers into a serious threat. It is obvious that to fully utilize the capabilities and benefits of GPS in the future, we must devise methods to block deliberate and/or accidental interferences of our signals.