Is GPS More Vulnerable Than Ever?


In March 2017, experts warned Congress that the U.S. Geographical Positioning System (GPS) is too easy to disrupt. This poses a serious threat to homeland security, as well as causing problems for a number of other industries that rely on GPS technology.

The Risk of GPS Interference

Thad Allen, a former U.S. Coast Guard admiral, stated that there should be a greater deterrence against illegal jamming, and the manufacture and sale of jammers must be controlled. The warnings were echoed by Gen. William Shelton, a former head of Air Force Space Command, who mentioned that it is all too easy for foreign governments to destroy satellites and to execute signal jamming and cyber-attacks. The general consensus was that the U.S. is still underprepared to effectively manage cyber-threats.

Numerous industries, as well as private companies and civilians, are reliant on GPS for navigation. GPS also allows for precision timekeeping―all devices with a receiver have access to precise time information on the atomic clocks of the navigation satellites. This capability makes it a crucial tool for keeping a record of high-speed transactions, such as Wall Street trades, as well as for synchronizing telecommunications.

Signal jamming, therefore, can have a potentially catastrophic effect on daily operations, and may even lead to property damage and possible loss of life.

The Proliferation of Signal Jammers

A major issue today is the proliferation of signal jammers. Though they are illegal to use and purchase, their manufacture and online trade continue virtually unabated. Many people purchase GPS signal jammers to prevent their vehicles from being tracked―while this is a common privacy concern, the use of the jammers can be extremely dangerous.

For example, in 2009, a driver in New Jersey installed a jamming device on his truck to prevent his employer from tracking him. When he drove by the Newark Liberty International Airport, his jammer interfered with the GPS systems of the planes.

As more people gain access to these jammers, the more vulnerable the system becomes. That is why many industries measure GPS interference using multi-element GPS simulators that offer anti-jam testing capabilities. The simulators help identify interference levels and minimize some of the risks involved.

To learn more about our GPS/GNSS Controlled Reception Pattern Antenna (CRPA) testers, contact Cast Navigation today at (978) 858-0130. 

January 2, 2018