Feeds

Car thieves making clean getaway with GPS jammers

Pedal to the signal meddle

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Car thief gangs have begun using imported GPS jammers to allow them to escape tracking technology.

Illicit kit imported into Europe from China operates on the same frequency as GPS satellites to drown out timing signals and confound in-car devices. Because of this in-vehicle systems are unable to either determine their position or report in to vehicle tracking centres in cases where cars or lorries registered with GPS-based tracking technology are stolen.

Vehicles "disappear from the radar" when the GPS jamming technology is deployed, Professor David Last of the University of Wales at Bangor told The Guardian. Professor Last has acted as an expert witness for prosecutors in recent prosecutions involving the seizure of illegal GPS jamming kit.

GPS jammers also have the potential to drown out mobile signals locally, a factor that has reportedly been applied to stop truckers contacting the police in lorry heists in Germany, as well as other applications. Experts reckons some German motorists have used the devices in attempts to avoid GPS-based road charging, introduced for trucks in 2005.

Ownership of the technology is a legal grey area even though it is against the law in both the UK and Germany to either sell or use jamming devices. GPS satellite signals are low power, so jamming devices need not be powerful.

Bob Cockshott, a GPS expert who works for the Technology Strategy Board, a public sector body funded by the Department of Business, explained that a "jammer with an output of about 2 watts [can] swamp any signal from the GPS satellites over an area of a few metres".

More powerful jammers in the 20w range could potentially disrupt the GPS signals over a river estuary or at airports. The UK government has allocated a £2.2m grant to a consortium including Chronus Technology to build GPS-jamming detection systems, currently at the prototype stage of development.

Although the risk of GPS jamming has been understood for years, its misuse by crooks is far more recent, dating back perhaps only 18 months. "We need to make users of GPS aware of the threat," Cockshott told The Guardian.

He added that the use of systems that triangulate positions based on the strength of signals from mobile phone masts, or similar technology, needs to be deployed as a complement and backup to GPS-based vehicle tracking and recovery services. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.