July 24th, 2022
In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission fined a person almost $32k for using a device intended to evade the fleet management tracking system on his company vehicle. The device in question: a jammer gps.
Eventually, with help from the FCC and with specialized equipment, they were finally able to identify the cause of these inexplicable problems: A contractor on site was using a GPS jammer that not only blocked his company vehicle’s fleet tracking system, it also took down the GBAS in the process.
GPS jammers are usually small devices that plug into a vehicle’s lighter port and emit radio signals that overpower or drown out much weaker signals such as GPS or others. Although GPS jammers are illegal in the US, they are easily available online and are becoming more and more common as the use of fleet management tracking systems increases. These devices may seem relatively harmless at first glance, but their potential to cause harm is significant.
The case of the jammer at the Newark Airport is a perfect example. A simple $30 device was able to take down a state-of-the-art, highly sophisticated landing system at one of the busiest airports in the world. Worse, the device user wasn’t even trying to do so. Imagine what a person who DID intend to do harm could do?
In timing applications,portable jammer can disrupt the GPS signal, causing the underlying systems to lose their ability to synchronize their internal clocks and, in turn, their ability to stay in sync with the rest of the network. Since many critical infrastructures sectors require synchronization across their network to be within millionths of a second, even short-term GPS outages can have a major impact. Worse, when an outage occurs, there’s typically nothing to indicate that it’s a result of jamming. The GPS signal simply is not received anymore.
To make matters even more dire, many of the datacenters that house the servers these networks run on are in warehousing districts (with trucks coming and going frequently) or near major highways. These are two of the most likely places to encounter GPS jammers. In fact, at Orolia we know from experience and real-life examples that it not only happens … it’s relatively common.
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