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Seoul plans anti-GPS jamming system to thwart NORKS

Naughty North Korea has been disrupting signals since 2010

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South Korea is finalising plans to track down and block GPS jamming signals emitted by its increasingly belligerent northern neighbour.

Unnamed official government sources told Yonyap news agency that the GPS surveillance system would be co-ordinated by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning.

However, relevant technologies developed by the government’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) will apparently be transferred to a private firm, which will be tasked with setting up the system.

"The government aims to open a public bid in mid-April with an aim to set up the system by November or December this year," an official told the news agency. "Efforts to develop a system that can defend GPS jamming are also under way.”

While officials are claiming the plan is not a panicked reaction to the increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula, the ratcheting up of hostile rhetoric by Pyongyang in recent weeks will certainly have helped focus minds.

Among other threats, NORKS has warned all foreigners in South Korea to evacuate; that it can’t vouch for the safety of foreign diplomats in Pyongyang after 10 April; and that it will launch missile attacks on US military bases and turn Seoul into a “sea of fire”.

The last vestige of the so-called “Sunshine Policy” between North and South, the Kaesŏng industrial enclave run by southern experts but employing northern workers, has also been shuttered by NORKS this week in a highly symbolic gesture which will put a sizeable dent in its national coffers.

North Korea’s GPS jamming has been an issue for well over two years now, with the last major incident coming in late April/early May 2012, when the jamming signals were traced back, ironically enough, to Kaesŏng.

At that time Seoul lodged an official complaint to the UN after hundreds of aircraft and shipping vessels had their navigation systems disrupted.

South Korea has been increasingly fearful that such sporadic incidents could be the prelude to a major attack.

GPS signals are not thought to be particularly difficult to jam – all it takes is a stronger signal broadcast on the same frequency – and NORKS has already shown its intent to disrupt in cyber space.

It is expected to be announced today that North Korea was behind a large scale cyber attack which crippled operations at three banks and several TV stations last month.

There are no details as yet as to which technology South Korea may turn to in tracking and defending against GPS-jamming, although solutions certainly exist.

US firm Novatel and UK defence biz Qinetiq have developed GAJT (GPS Anti Jam Technology), although appears to be tailored more for individual military vehicles.

GPS-jamming detection, meanwhile, is offered by a range of firms including the UK’s Chronos Technology. ®

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