Feb 232012

After the Tricolor sank following a collision two other vessels rammed the wreck. A foretaste of what GPS jamming might cause?

When, rather than if, the English Channel sees a major maritime catastrophe due to jamming of GPS signals it will not be for lack of warnings (See more below). The latest came during a conference at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory on 22 February.

MAC has previously reported on the threat to ships created by GPS jamming equipment now easily available on the internet. That threat is now a clear and present danger according to Bob Cockshott, Director of Position, Navigation and Timing at the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network, and organiser of the conference.

Warns Cockshott: “With the reliance on GPS systems in the maritime environment, highlighted by the General Lighthouse Authority, our vulnerability on land and at sea should not be underestimated. As well as immediate concerns, this conference has laid out the next generation of threats, in the form of spoofing and time sabotage – deliberately misleading users for criminal purposes rather than simply denying service. We must ensure that alongside dealing with the threat posed by jamming, we also stay ahead of advances in the criminal world.”

Global position satellites generate very weak signals which are easily swamped by cheap jamming equipment. The equipment is legal to own but illegal to use. Research by the Sentinel project showed a disturbingly wide use of such jamming equipment, including exploitation by criminals.

Although the Sentinel findings related to road vehicles its findings also demonstrate the danger to shipping. In 2010, researchers produced low level jamming and reviewed its effects on the onboard systems in ships on the English Channel. The results ranged from ships veering off course to the failure of vital communications systems.

A further threa to GPS integrity are solar flares, expected to increase during 2012.

See also:

GPS Hacking May Sink Ships
FCC Enforces GPS Jammer Prohibition
GPS Doomsday? Not Yet But…
GPS: Do You Need To Fix Those Fixes?
Sat Maintenance May Degrade GPS Performance
The Sun Has Got His Spat On…
Where’s the GPS Gone?
GPS – The Dumb End Of The Finger
GPS Losing Its Way?
The Zombie GPS
Case No. 3 – The Case Of The Wandering Monarch

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