The widespread use of illegal GPS jamming devices on UK roads has been revealed in a new study that highlights the potential risks to critical systems the activity poses.
The 24-month Sentinel project deployed specially developed GPS interference probes to detect parts of the UK where GPS signals suffered interference – either from natural sources or deliberate jamming.
Initial findings using six months' data from 20 probes suggests that between 50 and 450 incidents of deliberate jamming take place every day across the UK.
That points to widespread use of GPS jamming devices, said Bob Cockshott, director of position, navigation and timing at the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network.
“These jammers present a very real risk to services that rely GPS,” he told V3.
These GPS jammers are often bought over the internet and the researchers believe they are typically used to interfere with the GPS trackers used by logistics firms to track their vehicles.
While this often meant they were used by drivers not wanting to be caught out when taking an on-duty nap, there had been cases of the devices being used to hide hijacked vehicles.
One of the major problems is that the devices are often far more powerful than users expect. As a result, they can potentially interfere with GPS systems at airports, which are usually sited near major roads, said Cockshott.
In future, those currently using jammers look likely to extend their capabilities, by spoofing signals or sabotaging time stamps, warned Cockshott.
The Sentinel project is a collaboration between Chronos Technology, which provides the interference-detecting probes and the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network, the National Physics Labororatory, the Association of Chief Police Officers and others.
Ultimately, the Sentinel project is intended to help law enforcers identify those responsible for jamming GPS signals and provide counter measures, said Charles Curry, chief executive of Chronos Technology.
“We are making great strides in the detection and location of these devices, the final stage, mitigation, is still some way off depending on the application and industry sector,” he said.
Last year, the Royal Academy of Engineering warned that the UK's critical systems had become too reliant upon GPS technology.
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