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Secret UK Network Hunts GPS Jammers 228

Posted by samzenpus
from the hunt-you-down dept.
garymortimer writes "A secret network of 20 roadside listening stations across the UK has confirmed that criminals are attempting to jam GPS signals on a regular basis. From the article: 'Government-funded trials involving the police have revealed more than a hundred incidents of GPS jammer use in the UK. The Sentinel project, which has been running since January 2011, was designed to measure GPS jamming on UK roads. The project, run by GPS-tracking company Chronos Technology, picked up the illegal jamming incidents via four GPS sensors in trials lasting from two to six months per location.'"
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Secret UK Network Hunts GPS Jammers

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  • by neokushan (932374) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @04:12AM (#39134333)

    Why block GPS? What do criminals gain from it? Genuine Queston.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @04:18AM (#39134361) Journal
    Asking the question doesn't make you sound stupid. Not thinking the answer might be in the article does. :)

    People illegally jam GPS for a number of reasons, Curry told the audience at the conference at the National Physical Laboratory. These include evasion of company-vehicle or covert tracking, and stealing high-value vehicles.

    Remember, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people!

  • Misleading Article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @04:21AM (#39134379)

    It's not criminals blocking GPS it's blokes in trucks that don't want their bosses to know where they are and how fast they are going.

    Most UK fleets operate GPS tracking so they can schedule deliveries/keep tabs on driver behaviour, jamming the GPS allows that truck driver to exceed the speed limits, take unscheduled breaks, drive for longer periods of time and generally do things without his bosses knowing about it. In cab tachographs can be tampered with, GPS tracking done remotely cannot so the solution for them is to block the GPs signal.

    Yes it's illegal to interfere with GPS but we are not talking about hardened criminals here, what purpose would jamming a GPS network in a range of 200 yards around your vehicle serve ?

  • by Duncan Booth (869800) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @04:32AM (#39134447) Homepage
    Possible but unlikely. I think at the moment they are just jamming the GPS signal which is really easy to do. To redirect you to another location they have to provide fake signals that your receiver will think are real. You can do that but it requires more sophisticated equipment. New Scientist had an article about GPS jamming last year and one of the more interesting things they suggested was that if you could distort the GPS instead of just jamming it you could cause mains blackouts over large areas of the US. Apparently US power stations use GPS as the reference time signal to ensure that the different power stations keep their generators in phase, so knock a few of them half a cycle out of phase and the entire network could come down.
  • by lightknight (213164) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @04:36AM (#39134477) Homepage

    Honestly? The LEOs of today, based off of what limited information I have gathered, pale somewhat in comparison with the LEOs of yesteryear. That is to say the quality has dropped a fair amount with regards to the new recruits. Now, it's possible that the quality has remained the same, and it's only with the advent of new technology (cellphone cameras) are we finding out just how poor that quality has been all along...however, there are some limited indicators which suggest it may have been, on average, better at some point in the past.

    Investigators who need information spoon-fed to them, troopers who need to be constantly reminded of the laws they are supposed to be upholding...it's pretty bad.

    How does this relate to GPS? Well, as I outlined in a post a while back, officers are more reliant on technology today than times past. Mind you, I said reliant, not augmented by. As such, a typical officer cannot be guaranteed to actually memorize the various roads and streets that make up their own town / city, let alone the surrounding towns / cities. So, if you manage to knock out their GPS navigation systems, it's possible that they will not be able to find a route, let alone a quick one, to the scene of the crime nor plot an intercept course to pursue a suspect if he / she is still at large.

    If you pair up GPS jammers in concert with radio jammers, you can prevent officers from being notified about a crime in progress, as well as prevent them from finding their way to the scene (thus buying yourself time) is they manage to get around that (by using their cellphones or something more creative). In the event of a chase, officers typically need some level of communication to box-in a suspect (to get a car on either side, one in back, one in front, to force you to slow down). And so on.

    Since this is taking place in the UK, it could be a prelude to something 'interesting': rolling with the cliches here, someone planning a bank heist or to swipe the crown jewels. Or not: it could easily be a broken device broadcasting on the wrong channel, with the owner unaware; a broken CB radio in California once overpowered cellphones in the surrounding area, and no criminal intent was found. Or a prank.

     

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @05:54AM (#39134783)

    what purpose would jamming a GPS network in a range of 200 yards around your vehicle serve

    Part of me thinks the enforcement of this is a prelude to the coming age where our vehicle positions are all tracked ; that isn't tinfoil hat territory, it's a serious proposition that has been raised by the government of the UK amongst others in Europe. I'm firmly convinced that this is one of the major justifications for the new Galileo navigation satellite constellation - it's been designed to work much better in the kind of convoluted urban environment common in European cities.

    The legislative justification is "road pricing" - the idea being ostensibly to reduce congestion on busy roads at rush hour by charging higher tolls for them, all enforced by an on-board GPS / Galileo datalogger with a cellular modem. Since a back-of-the-napkin calculation can tell you that it's an order of magnitude cheaper to toll roads by mandating active RFID tags in license plates, Occam's Razor says that road pricing is not the real aim of fitting every vehicle with a tracking device.

    Quite apart from the current reasons for enforcing a ban on GPS jammers (interference with airport GPS equipment, etc), they have a vested interest in not letting these devices become common enough to render them effectively impossible to police.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @06:54AM (#39134979)

    I work for a telemetry company. Our units have a privacy mode the driver can activate when off duty.

    GPS jamming is also only really going to hide location, since these units are connected to the vehicle's CANBUS so read engine rpm, wheel speed, crazy acceleration, braking, cornering etc. So when the jamming is removed, it will still report back you drove the company car 500 miles at an average wheel speed of 86mph, with peaks of 112.

    Plus its blatantly obvious when the data stream stops due to comms failure.

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @07:38AM (#39135149)

    Why block GPS? What do criminals gain from it? Genuine Queston.

    What I'm surprised by is the apparent lack of incidents involving criminals using broad-banded jammers to kill ALL radio-based communications in a certain area.

    For instance, in the case of police conducting a taskforce drug-sweep through a gang-controlled neighborhood/apartment complex/etc, I could easily imagine the gang's lookouts giving the sign when the cops & SWAT starts to roll into the area, the gangsters then start up the jammers, killing all police radios as well as cell phones, GPS, and anything else depending on radio.

    That would remove an absolutely enormous tactical advantage from the police if they are unable to call for assistance or relay information about suspect activities, whereabouts, direction of travel, or even that an officer (or many) has/have been shot and is/are bleeding out in the alley behind the target building while the suspects safely escape.

    A mobile version in a criminal's vehicle would also be a great help in losing or ambushing pursuing officers.

    As a former amateur radio operator and RF electronics technician, it really wouldn't take much in material costs to rig up a series of car battery powered broadband jammers able to block any radio or GPS use within a couple-block area. You could probably pick up everything one would need to construct such a jamming system for less than a couple hundred dollars (depending on your haggling skills) from the typical amateur radio "hamfest" used electronics buy/sell/trade event and not leave a paper trail.

    Now, THAT should send chills down LE spines! Without his/her radio/cellphone, a cop is just another asshole with a gun, and dies just as easily. Hopefully, the uniforms and shiny bits should make them stand out and easily enough sorted from bystanders by the gang's snipers to avoid most collateral casualties.

    Hmm. Maybe I should work up some schematic drawings and layouts, and post them online if I get some spare time. I wonder if DHS/ICE would have the drawings taken off the 'net?

    Strat

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:05AM (#39135281)

    But for most things the criminals would need jammers for (like obstructing GPS tracking of valuable goods), they're not going to be using a whole lot of broadcasting power. Your detector is likely to only blip when the jammer is within 20ft or so. So unless you're right there with a detector when it goes by, it's still not going to be something you can home in on.

  • by biodata (1981610) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:09AM (#39135565)
    Jammers are the only way to prevent this invasion of privacy though. Until laws are mading forcing corporations to back off and stop tracking people, people will use whatever tools are available. If you find the general population start jamming GPS (rather than criminals on some kind of heist) then the only way to realistic defend the GPS is to remove the threat to it - invasion of privacy by corporations. Don't get me wrong, I understand why they want to hijack GPS for their own financial gain, but this is not its purpose, and criminalising people who legitimately want privacy will not protec the GPS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:56AM (#39135793)

    We used to do this on our HMMWVs on field exercises when we went for a shower or food run. There was a device called an EPLRS, which among other things reported the vehicle location back to headquarters. We merely unscrewed the antenna. To make it less suspicious, we randomly loosened antennas on the command HMMWVs and claimed it was vehicle vibration that loosened the cheap milspec connector.

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