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back to article GPS jamming rife, could PARALYSE Blighty, say usual suspects

Technical experts are once again predicting imminent doom caused by interference with Global Positioning System (GPS) sat-nav receivers. A nationwide UK network of detectors has reportedly discovered widespread employment of GPS jammer devices, and calls are being made for a harsh crackdown on users of such devices. "Today's …

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Bob Cockshott*

is a Challenge Delivery Manager at the government's Technology Strategy Board ICT Knowledge Transfer Network. I bet his business cards are something to behold. Does anyone know where I can apply for such a non-job (or should I just join the local lodge)?

* No sniggering at the back

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Pirate

Re: Bob Cockshott*

Robert was the quiet one. It were his brothers Richard and Harold who always had the room in stitches.

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Joke

All they have to do to get the cash

is to somehow link it to AGW.

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60 times in 6 months

How do we know it wasn't the same bloke driving past each time?

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Re: 60 times in 6 months

It probably was. I guess that isn't the point. If you are relying on GPS for something, it gives you an idea how often it won't work.

My SatNav occasionally goes completely mad when I'm driving around. I put that down to it being a rubbish mobile phone receiver, but maybe I was driving past someone who was jamming the signal. I don't use it when I'm going somewhere where I know the route, and that is most of my journeys, so I don't have enough data for reliable statistics.

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Re: Re: 60 times in 6 months

Put the sat nav into a different language, and learn while you drive your local routes.

Niki des!

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A British solution

A network of town criers positioned every 400m in a grid across the country.

They would simultaneously ring their bell every minute, each bell would have one of four different notes, a microphone would detect the arrival time of the sound from each of the notes and calculate your position. Speed of sound is around 300m/s so you would only need millisec level pf timing accuracy to achieve a better than 1ft position fix - easily obtainable with a BBC micro.

These scheme will promote full employment, avoid harmful brain destroying microwave radiation, be immune to solar flares and bring a level of oldy-worldy charm to the process of finding your way around strange towns.

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Re: A British solution

How is the simultaneous ringing of bells achieved?

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Boffin

Flat Earth Society?

There may be a few lumps for the sound to negotiate on the way.

A few echos here and there plus some valleys to do some mixing.

For a true British solution there should be a friendly copper within hailing distance who would politeley inform you of your whereabouts and if there are any ruffians in the area.

In busy areas such as cities poor and dishevelled but somehow spotlessly clean and unbearably cheerful urchins will be installed.

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M7S
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Re: Re: A British solution - Timing the bells

Easy - Change the distance to 1126 feet* and the frequency to once per second. You ring your bell to coincide with the chime of the ringer next to you, your ring will seem to coincide with his, although in reality it will be his last ring**. The increased grid density would also further assist with solving our current unemployment issues.

You might have to have some kind of dispersal issue to cope with the alteration of the speed of sound with changes in atmospheric density, particularly moisture, but I expect navigating in thick fog in Old Londinium Towne (sorry, recent Batman episodes refer) would be quite a hoot.***

*Assuming of course that we can maintain the UK at 20c and dry.

**A wag might point out that with ringers in such a close grid and the frequency up to 1Hz that the last ring might be quite soon for a great many campanologists. Perhaps I should have used previous instead.

***unless hoots are used as an alternative during inclement weather. There's a pun involving the term bellwether but as it apparently involves a castrated ram I'll stop there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Flat Earth Society?

Ahh, there's already a system for that, you just need to become a member of parliament, then everywhere will be wheelchair accessible and there'll always be a handy police officer to advise you of your location and the presence of members of the public or, as they're known parliament, undesirables.

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Devil

"...maintain the UK at 20c and dry."

I like it. That way a bit of bad weather will completely mess it up, and allow a little bit of snow to cause even more carnage and chaos on the roads. Good work that man.

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Pirate

Re: Re: Re: A British solution - Timing the bells

This is beginning to sound far too similar to the proposals made to the Longitude Board before Mr. Harrison invented his Marine Chronometer.

//Longitude -- great book!

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Paris Hilton

Re: A British solution

Great idea, although the government would then have to regulate the bell marketplace. Perhaps offering licenses to organisations that produce bells of particular frequencies. The costs will have to cover the policing of the black-market for those unlicensed fake town crier bells produced in eastern markets. More jobs, lots of back slapping politicians, surely this plan can't fail - hazzah!

Paris? 'Coz she loves bell ringing.

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Facepalm

M7S: Re: Re: Re: A British solution - Timing the bells

I was hoping that someone would suggest a network of national broadcast radio signals, with accurate timing information encoded in it (so the bell ringers could listen to it and sync to it).

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Re: Re: Re: A British solution - Timing the bells

M7S - Brilliant solution, well played sir. :-)

But what about nefarious types who use a jamming device such as another bell to interpolate the 1Hz ringing with an offbeat? This could be used to lure the unwary to their doom (or perhaps arrive at their destination twice as quickly <with due deference to the Royle family and things being farther away in Km argument>). The government would have to control the illegal possession and use of unauthorised bells, perhaps setting up monitoring stations all around the UK to detect just how widespread the use of these jamming devices is. Oh, wait...

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Didn't we have a long discussion after a post about Iran's alleged drone theft in which it was suggested that GPS spoofing is actually quite difficult? Is it, or isn't it?

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That depends on which viewpoint is trying to be proven.

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Well you could make spoofing _really_ hard by using steerable antenna arays. Since you know where the satellites are supposed to be, you can use beamforming to just receive them and not the background. Not sure if that is done. It would increase the hardware price by an order of magnitude. (then again $500 is afordable for a GPS receiver in many situations)

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Spoofing a passive receiver is not that difficult. The article suggests you can record an actual set of signals and play it back (timestamps would give this away, of course). Spoofing an active receiver so that instead of a drone flying to point A it goes to point B instead looks much more difficult, if not actually impossible.

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@RayG

We did indeed, and IIRC the outcome was that it was trivially easy to block (simple RF interference would do it), but more complicated to spoof.

60 block/spoofs in 6 months isn't much. That could almost be due to accidental interference, or depending on the locations of these listeners, be down to the spooks and their anti tracking measures.

If the 6 months happened to included a visit from Mr Obama, I'd put money on the latter.

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Hurrah for the paranoia industry

I read the article as saying blocks had been found and proven, but not spoofs, which are indeed far more difficult. So let's all fear spoof attacks!

It's not someone's funding review time by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

Spoofing eh?

Could come in handy for pay as you drive insurance policies.

Well, until you magically crash your car miles from where the box of tricks thinks it is.

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M7S
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And a more mundane consequence of jamming

http://www.reghardware.com/2012/02/20/boy_dies_after_satnav_fault_delays_ambulance/

No I'm not suggesting that this is the cause in this particular instance. Its just an illustration of the potential real world consequences of such japery.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And a more mundane consequence of non-jamming

is even more ambulance drivers relying on GPS, thus more chance of someone dying, because

a) we don't know how to use a f... map to find that b(..) postcode!

b) sorry guv, OS stopped selling those maps 20 years ago so it's like... tough. Don't blame me, blame the "system"!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And a more mundane consequence of jamming

All it would need is a dodgy lorry driver following exactly the same route as an ambulance tearing down the road with it's lights flashing and staying in close contact. And hope nobody noticed.

Might be handy if you fancied joy riding a security van mind.

Just wait until the GPS jammer detector jammer hits the market. Then worry

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: And a more mundane consequence of non-jamming

Postcodes are not on the maps we're issued. Standard A-Z plus some others and usually I can cope using those as a backup. If you've a physical map with a full postcode that I can use whilst in the Big White Taxi please post details.

Rather than start over I'll refer you to the comments section in that thread about the amount of local knowlege you can realistically expect of crews from services but given the huge geographical area we have to cover and the varying quality of location information we get from callers, its not really realistic. We're going to mostly rely on something electronic, even if we're given lattitude and longitude, unless you want me hanging out of the door using a sextant when providing cover out of my "patch" (Lewis can probably give a view on the training and regular requalification times required for this). Or we could go back to the 1960's if you want.

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Re: Re: Re: And a more mundane consequence of non-jamming

Using a sextant isn't going to be easy to navigate an ambulance. It might get you close enough to ask a local for directions - in anything other than ideal conditions and your watch being spot-on, you do well to get a fix to about 3-4 nautical miles and based on my own experience, even that's a fairly ambitious ask. Without a natural horizon you need to use an artificial one (a bed of mercury or a bubble spirit level seems popular) and that doesn't help the accuracy either.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Re: And a more mundane consequence of non-jamming

Yes , local knowledge is a desirable attribute. For a real world example, my wife called a "Big White Taxi" after I passed out on the floor and vomited about a litre of blood.

Unfortunately, the government in there wisdom had decided to centralise the ambulance centre call-centres. So, instead of a local call-centre despatching a local ambulance the central despatcher 700klms away took the call and sent an ambulance to an address with the same street name but 120klms distant from me. After waiting an hour for the ambulance which did not arrive, she bundled me into the car and we drove to the hospital 20mins away in town.

Needless to say, I survived, no thanks to the ambulance.

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GPS

Why not use it as a compliment to the many other methods of finding out where you are.

E.g, Road signs, a map, asking someone, stars, compass, etc etc.

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FAIL

Re: GPS

Because you've woefully underestimated what GPS is used for. Its timing signals are required - REQUIRED - to make your telephone networks work properly. All of them. And the financial market, too. All of it.

It's not just to help Aunt Elma find her way to Tesco when she's doing the weekly grocery run. Commodity satellite navigation devices are a by-product of GPS, and nothing more.

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Re: GPS

Because you've woefully underestimated what GPS is used for. Its timing signals are required - REQUIRED - to make your telephone networks work properly. All of them. And the financial market, too. All of it.

It's not just to help Aunt Elma find her way to Tesco when she's doing the weekly grocery run. Commodity satellite navigation devices are a by-product of GPS, and nothing more.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: GPS

Back when I worked in financial services we generally didn't use GPS signals for timing (as we didn't trust them) and when we did, they were used together with other reliable clock sources (eg what was know as the the Rugby transmitted, now changed).

Accurate timing was critical to the successful execution of trades, but if one of the involved parties had the wrong time, the transaction would just fail. Given there was no 'standard' clock source, the changes of us all getting skewed by the same amount was very unlikely. There were/are much easier ways to abuse the market.

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Personally I've never used GPS or Sat Nav, even when going places I've never been before. I find it sufficient to look the route up on a map, ask people who've been there before and if I get stuck phone the destination when I'm nearby. The GPS on my smartphone is permanently turned off to save battery.

Maritime uses are understandable but the reliance of modern car drivers on GPS isn't.

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@Irongut, how about these?

3G phone networks; the doors on a lot of trains; aircraft navigation; the national electricity grid. I bet you've relied on one or two of those at some point in the past, and would have been seriously annoyed if they stopped working.

GPS has wormed its way into a lot of things that we count on everyday and take for granted. If GPS jamming became a major thing it would cause a lot of problems.

Those engineers who have built highly important systems that rely solely on GPS (I don't know if that's completely true for the list above) are lazy idiots. Either that or their management are cheapskates. The trouble is that GPS is just so damned convenient for many things. And to have to fall back on something else when GPS packs up is difficult. But it is necessary if you're building something that really matters like trains, planes, grids and comms.

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Anonymous Coward

It's perfectly understanadable

They're a useful tool.

They mean you've effectively got maps for wherever you need to go and they mean you don't have to have a big mission-planning exercise before you set out somewhere new. I find both of these things very worthwhiile and the atlas in the boot means I needn't fret about total failure.

As a person who hates arriving late, I also find it valuable to have a second opinion as to when I'm likely to arrive. Before I got myself a tomtom the traditional options were indeed sufficient, but this tool is definitely an improvement.

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Good lord man...

... you use maps? Isn't that rather effete? You should be judging North from the moss on trees or possibly using a compass and sextant. And using a *car*?? Whatever next?

Personally I find a sat-nav extremely useful, especially when ferrying two chatty under-eights to somewhere obscure in the London suburbs.

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Mopeds

knock out just about anything within a few hundred yards. Yeah, I know that GPS is below the noise floor anyway, but when the noisefloor moves up because the local pizza delivery goes past blatting out about 300W E.R.P, it stands no chance!

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MrT
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On the plus side...

... 300W sounds enough to keep the pizzas warm...

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Z80

I just skimmed through the article but I think what you're basically saying is that LOHAN's GPS autopilot system will definitely work perfectly and you'll have no excuses if it doesn't?

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Anonymous Coward

no new laws or regulations are required...

See Section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. Radio Frequency Jammers, being unlicenced kit, are therefore illegal apparatus as noted in the act. Offenders can be fined or stuck in jug on conviction - if not both - especially if the jamming interferes with emergency services crews.

Of course, to convict them, you gotta catch 'em first.

Might be an idea to have the boys in blue fit yet more high-tech taxpayer-money-draining kit into their cars, then.

Donughts and coffee, anyone?

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Worse than just teh boats!!!

According to this morning's Metro front page, the entire financial system could be brought to a grinding halt! Our learned friends reported that some banks rely on GPS timing signals for trading. For calibrating NTP perhaps, but it's perhaps "a bit of a stretch" from interrupting that calibration to pwning the market.

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/world/891008-gps-jammers-could-make-criminals-millions-on-the-stock-market. Try not to snort out your coffee in derision like I did. The Metro is overpriced.

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That bit made me laugh out loud on the Tube this morning

I did get a couple of funny looks.

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Relying on just GPS for timing is stupid

Apart from GPS there are at least three alternative time sources:

- NTP. You DON'T need to connect your highly secure financial system to the net to use it. Run an NTP server on a 'net connected box and let it pretend to be a GPS receiver: every second it sends an NMEA GPRMC sentence to your secure network via a serial (RS-232) connection.

- MSF60 (UK) and DCF77 (German) low frequency time signals

- WWF and other short wave signals. The noticeable absence from this band is the UK

If accurate timing is critical for your application then you're an idiot to rely on just one, especially when receivers are relatively cheap (MSF60 receivers are cheap enough to fit in a 15 quid wall clock), so use at least two and plumb them into a local ntp time server - this way you won't be caught out by jammers or the big one if when a solar flare takes out GPS, Galileo *and* GLONASS.

Keeping LORAN alive as a GPS backup would be a smart move for shipping and airlines too.

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MrT
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Metro has news...???

... Nemi FTW - everything else is chip wrapping.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Relying on just GPS for timing is stupid

Pffft.... NMEA sentences? You don't use those for time keeping, they're just time stamps. Some GPS receivers have a 1PPS output but phase relationship to the actual time is not a given unless it's an expensive receiver.

Out of MSF60 and DCF77, only DCF77 gives you actual millisecond precision. As well as the low baud rate time stamp, more precise time information is encoded into phase shift keying of the carrier signal. Either of those systems is arguably easier to break/spoof than the Navstar signalling is though.

NTP (via a wire) calibration of a reliable local clock is easily FTW, unless you happen to be mobile.

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Alert

It was once proposed that WiFi transmitters could be installed in lamp-posts to flood an area with internet - if this were done - one of the many WiFi location databases could be used to provide a backup to the GPS signal - if the GPS signal was massively different to where the WiFi databases suggested you were - some authority could be alerted? If the vehicle in your general vicinity was screwing with the GPS signal - a large amount of surrounding vehicles would be reporting that there was something up.

Even without installing WiFi everywhere - there are enough Android phones out there using Google Maps for navigation. Android phones by default (providing the option is checked in Wireless and Networks) scan for WiFi MAC addresses while Google Maps is running - and report MAC addresses and GPS positions back to Google. They do it this way now because of the uproar caused by the Street View vans collecting WiFi data. So - a simple software update would actually enable Android phones to perform this automatic reporting that the GPS signal and the WiFi location do not match.

(Yes I know the WiFi location is not always accurate - so X number of samples would have to incorrect before any automatic reporting was started)

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