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GPS Jammers Are Causing Security and Time Concerns Worldwide

What do Finnish civilian pilots losing air navigation signals, ships in the Black Sea indicating their position 65 km on land, and American drivers avoiding tolls have in common? Each situation involves jammers that affect the Global Positioning System (GPS).

What is Global Positioning System?

The Global Positioning System is a network of satellites that transmit signals. Receiving devices use these signals to determine geographic location by trilateration.

To determine a position on the ground, for example, the minimum requirement is three incoming signals. But with more incoming signals, accuracy improves. To determine both a geographic location and an altitude, there must be at least four signals.

GPS not only determines geographic locations, but also provides a critical fourth dimension that many overlook: time. Each GPS satellite contains several atomic clocks that send extremely precise time data to receivers. Receivers decode this information and allow an electronic device to determine the correct time to less than 100 billionths of a second.

Why is GPS important?

A myriad of infrastructure, businesses, and electronic products rely on GPS to synchronize time and location. They understand:

Communication industries Electric and utility companies Emergency services (police, fire and medical) Financial markets Transportation (air, sea, rail and road) Medical equipment ATMs Gas stations Smart home devices
Additionally, many other devices rely to some extent on GPS. The number and types of items incorporating GPS are increasing as technology advances.

Outside the United States, other countries mainly rely on the Chinese BeiDou, Russian Glonass and European Galileo programs. All of these systems, along with the US GPS system, are part of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

4 Bands Portable Jammers Jamming GSM 3G GPS WIFI 315MHz 433MHz 868MHz
Russian use of jammers interferes with GNSS

In recent years, the Russians have started jamming GNSS. Initially, Russia sometimes blocked or spoofed GNSS to mask President Putin's location. This tactic was intended to keep Putin safe and prevent any weapons relying on satellite tracking from tracking him.

For example, an incident involving ships in the Black Sea occurred when Putin crossed the Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea. This caused 24 ships anchored nearby to show their location at Anapa Airport, over 65 km away.

Putin's lavish summer residence near the Black Sea is also protected by a permanent GNSS spoofing zone. This gives his house the same level of airspace protection and GNS interference as the Kremlin.

However, Russia has expanded its GNSS jamming, jamming and spoofing in recent years. Their GPS jammer have advanced to a point where they are likely capable of carrying out widespread "attacks" on GNSS receivers, potentially jamming all navigation systems in a chosen area.

US use of GPS jammers is also a problem

There is also a threat of GPS jamming in our own country. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made GPS jammers illegal in the United States, they still exist.

In 2015, pilots flying to Philadelphia's Northeast Airport reported losing their GPS navigation signals when approaching the runway. The incident was caused by a truck driver, parked in a nearby car park, disabling a tracking device using a GPS jammer he had purchased.

LORAN, the first American GPS

During World War II, the United States developed the Long Range Navigation System (LORAN) for ship convoys crossing the Atlantic Ocean and for long range patrol aircraft. In 1958, the US Coast Guard took control of LORAN.

But due to the accuracy of GPS, the Obama administration decided in 2009 that LORAN "no longer serves any government function and is not capable of serving as a backup for GPS." The government has declared the system obsolete and the United States and Canada have shut down their LORAN beacons.

By 2015, other countries around the world had also shut down their beacons. An improved trial version of LORAN, known as eLoran and accurate to less than 20 meters, was also discontinued.

National Weather Resilience and Security Act 2018 creates backup system for GPS

Reliance on GPS for location and time is so crucial that U.S. Senators Cruz (R-Texas) and Markey (D-Mass), as well as Congressmen Garamendi (D-CA) and Hunter (R-CA ) worked together to pass the National Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2018. President Trump signed it last December.

This law requires the creation of a backup system for GPS by the end of 2020. The requirements include that the backup system must have the following characteristics:

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Terrestrial Wireless The ability to provide wide area coverage Synchronized with Coordinated Universal Time Elasticity Extremely difficult to degrade Capable of being deployed to remote sites
In addition, the backup system must work in concert with and complement other similar positioning, navigation, and timing systems, which include enhanced long-range navigation systems and nationwide differential GPS systems. It must also be able to adapt and grow to provide position and navigation capabilities.

In addition, the law specified the use of applicable private sector expertise to develop, build and operate the system. It must be fully operational for at least 20 years.

In a 2018 press release, Senator Cruz (R-Texas) said that "If the current system were disrupted for even a few hours, there would be an immediate threat to the American people, the economy, and our way of life. same. Sen. Marley (D-Mass) added, “The nation's banking, communications, power and transportation sectors depend on the precise timing provided by GPS. We cannot allow this vital system to be put on hold. endangered by natural phenomena such as solar flares or coordinated attacks such as jamming.

More progress is needed on the GPS backup system

In early March, Congressman DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, concerned about the slow progress of GPS backup, “we are concerned that 14 months after the mandate…became law, and 11 months after Congress provided substantial funds…the administration has made little observable progress.

In a bipartisan letter, Congressmen Larson (D-Washington) and chairman of the aviation subcommittee, Maloney (R-New York), chairman of the Coast Guard and Shipping subcommittee, and Garamendi (D-California), chairman of the Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, asked Transportation Secretary Chao for a status update. At the beginning of May, no update appears to be publicly available.

As the United States increasingly depends on technology to run many aspects of our lives, the fact that this technology requires extremely precise timing is not lost. As the US Telecommunications Industry Solutions Alliance has pointed out, GPS jammers causing timing issues are a point of failure for the wireless system and in our growing Internet of Things.
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