back to article Car thieves making clean getaway with GPS jammers

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 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Hi...

    ...yes, hi, I've just had my 60 tonne, 18 wheeler hi-jacked from Clacket Lane Services, it's currently doing 90mph down the southbound M25 between Junctions 5 and 6, registration plate.......sorry? No, I don't have a GPS tracking system."

    *click*

    "Hello?"

  2. The Original Ash
    WTF?

    Cockshott

    That set off the profanity filter.

  3. Dazed and Confused Silver badge
    Happy

    what a surprise

    enough said.

    if you invent a way of detecting a crime the crims will invent a way to avoid it.

    It is just surprising it has taken this long. Probably hasn't professional gangs have probably been doing this for sometime.

    Next you'll find the the electronic warfare suppliers can fit a pod to the police choppers to spot a 2W transmitter. All they'll need to do is to remove the automatic targeting and missile delivery system that such toys probably come with as standard.

    1. Steve X
      Grenade

      choppers

      "All they'll need to do is to remove the automatic targeting and missile delivery system that such toys probably come with as standard."

      Why? Someone nicks my car they get what they deserve, and the car's insured.

      1. Ross 7

        Re: choppers

        Bringing a whole new meaning to the use of stingers to stop stolen vehicles.

  4. Mos Eisley Spaceport
    FAIL

    I detect your detector and raise you!

    GPS jamming detector detectors, followed by GPS jamming detector detector detectors.....et al

    "Bob Cockshott"

    You couldn't make that up!

    1. Anonymous John

      GPS jamming detector detectors

      They already exist and many cars already have them. They're called Sat Navs.

      How hard can it be to track a dead spot moving at 70mph along a motorway?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Very difficult

        Because the only people who'd know it's jammed are the people who're in the next car along. It's not creating a black spot on every Tom Tom in the world or anything.

        And if a 20W would block a river estuary, a couple of mW would block the GPS signals getting to the car's onboard receiver without letting it leak too far outside of the car.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    I've been saying this for the last year..

    Essentially, if you have a car security system that's based on GPS, then you don't really have one at all. These jammers are £30 and very easily available. I bought one just to see what the effect was, and the result was it totally knocked out the GPS of any device I tested with it (iPhone, WM phone, in-car, TomTom), within seconds. Small, plugs into cigarette lighter. Most care thieves will have one, and probably a mobile blocker too.

  6. Dan 10
    Happy

    No title required

    Bob Cockshott?! Seriously?!

    Thieves are getting more like Ocean's 11/Mission Impossible every day...

  7. Jigr69
    Black Helicopters

    Road price charging

    If the UK ever brings in a nationwide road pricing policy, then the sale off such jammers will increase. I think it may be wise to get hold of one now rather than wait until demand rises..

    1. Steve X
      Unhappy

      solution

      Sadly the likely government solution will be to assume that you drive from London to Edinburgh every day unless the road charging system shows otherwise, and bill you accordingly. Remember, we're all guilty now unless we can prove we're innocent.

    2. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      Wow!

      You mean, it blocks your iPhone?

      You wouldn't know if it worked with any other model of smartphone, would you?

      Hot damn, at last a weapon against proximity-detecting SMS spammers!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transmission power

    If this kit has a high transmission power then it could be used in military applications, a most worrying development as we rely more and more on GPS (or Galileo or GLONASS).

    Thank goodness they're still teaching kids how to use a map and compass on the Duke of Edinburgh programmes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Transmission power

      Wouldn't a powerful transmitter be an advertisment of your position available to anyone who can triangulate the source?

      1. BeefStirFry
        Pirate

        Which is why...

        you only use a small device to knock out a 5m radius, drive to a secluded spot and you have enough time to find the GPS transmitter and put it in the back of another lorry going in the opposite direction...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Terminator

      Could be using in military applications?

      It regularly is.

      it's harldly a secret:-

      www.ofcom.org.uk/static/subscribe/gpsjamming.htm

      luckily it's usually out at sea.

  9. Natalie Gritpants

    Hoorah for cheap cars

    No alarm, no immobiliser, no GPS, no satnav. I don't worry about it getting stolen. Cheap cars can be reliable, fast (as anything on the motorway) and comfortable. The only thing they lack is a big-ego-indicator.

  10. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    So don't have a cigarette lighter socket

    Or have a fake one. Or have no lighter socket but ashtrays, while the villains are still looking for the socket the police arrive... Or have one that switches off after 30 seconds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Re:So don't have a cigarette lighter socket

      best would be to have a normal looking cig socket but connected to a hidden inverter that pushes 240V AC down the socket... if their device is fused then the fuse blows, if not.. either the jammer starts smoking or it blows with a loud BOOM!

      Either way, the socket will not be useful for anyone else except yourself and your devices (with a custom-made adapter from cig socket to normal power socket, so that you can power a normal laptop adapter or something else).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good idea

        Right up to the point where you drop the last mint ball into it and try to fish it out blind whilst doing 70 in the outside lane on the M25

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      And you can bully Audi drivers....

      The most damage that can be done to my heap is around £500 for a total write-off.

      Boy, are those Audi driving arseholes surprised when you *don't* move out of the way when they *try* to cut you up.

      BTW, what is it with Audis and arseholes? It used to be that if some twonk cut you up at a junction it was either a white Transit or a BMW. Now its always an f'ing Audi.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Audi drivers?

        Huh. Here in the Seat Of The Empire -- a.k.a. Washington, DC, USA -- it's still the goddamn' BMW drivers, especially in my particular 'hood, Capitol Hill.

        However, in this neck of the woods, the Prius is rapidly catching up for the title of Rich Assholemobile.

      2. GilbertFilbert

        What is it with Audi?

        They are driven by middle class chavs who think driving a BMW is beneath them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Terminator

    20w range?

    I want a phased plasma GPS jammer in the 40W range!!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    If only

    Now if they could just develop automatically triggered prismatic aerosols* to scatter speed camera laser light and maybe in car ECM pods to scramble the radar based systems, they'd make a fortune.

    You'd end up with gangs having "Wild Weasel" modded GTi's and the Police fitting BAe's new "Civilian Law Enforcement" version of Alarm. It would make Cops on Camera and the like great fun to watch! I'm sure ITV would do a deal, they need something for when X-Factor isn't on...

    *Prismatic aerosols or sand casters to defeat laser weaponry features in a number of Sci-Fi tomes I can think of. Sorry, I'll just get my anorak.

    1. seven of five

      SEAD (Wild Weasel)

      Considering the job at hand, a _S_Ti would certainly be vehicle of choice. OTOH, GTI are very ... expendable.

    2. Petrea Mitchell
      Boffin

      In Car Wars...

      ...if memory serves, they used plain old smoke to defeat lasers. Or "hot smoke" if you wanted to confuse infrared targeting systems as well.

  13. Throatwobbler Mangrove
    Joke

    shoehorn

    How does Bob Marley like his doughnuts? With jam in, jam in, jam in...

    How do the Wailers like their doughnuts? We hope they like jam in, too...

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      Aw-riiiiiight!

      You frickin' _rule_, my man.

      'Scuse me while I light my spliff.

  14. Graham Marsden
    FAIL

    But... but...

    ... they *can't* do that, we've made jammers illegal! We know that banning something means that people won't do it, don't we, boys and girls?

    - Government Spokesdrone.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Absolutely!

      When was the last time you heard of illegal firearms being used to commit a crime....

    2. Haku
      Coat

      The war on drugs

      Reminds me of a Bill Hicks standup piece - "There's a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it."

  15. Fluffykins Silver badge

    Whay has noone

    Mentioned frikkin lasers?

  16. JRBobDobbs
    Thumb Up

    @gritpants and cheap cars

    the benefits of use of cheap cars was christened 'bangernomics' by the late Frank Haines , a great exponent of the art.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I believe they are called localised Dampening fields

    in Star Trek

    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Dampening_field

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    I wonder.....

    My TomTom went bonkers the other day and, thinking about it, it was while I was following a particular car.....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @ Anonymous John...

    stop ruining my fun driving up and down motorways annoying all the idiots who seem to find they cannot engage a brain cell without a sat-nav to tell them how to drive.

    mobile mobile-phone free(ego-dampening) zones now in your area :D

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err...Everyone is missing one MAJOR point

    Tracking devices (at least the one everyones heard of "Tracker") don't just use GPS. In fact GPS is only the secondary method of tracking as it is blocked as soon as the car is crated up....or drives into a multistory. They use VHF and have done since the 80s...so far it's working quite well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      VHF Blockers

      This is easliy bypassed by running a low power VHF "frequency inverter" off of the cig lighter socket, using the car's own wiring as the antenna (I saw this once, but didn't think much of it at the time). This usually will encompass the vehicle's tracking antenna and cancel it out. It also utilizes common problems with grounding and proper signal choking off of power leads on post-sale installations.

      This will not work, however, with those that have the antennas mounted on the roof of the car or in the window. Usually easiest to just cut the wire then, eh?

    2. John 48
      Happy

      Re: Err...Everyone is missing one MAJOR point

      And what do you suppose is being reported over that VHF connection?

      Things like the position of the vehicle obtained from the GPS unit perhaps....

    3. Captain Save-a-ho
      Pint

      Er...and the jammers are pretty common place

      Whether you want CDMA, GSM, GPS, or VHF...jammers galore available for ready purchase, thanks to the miracle of the Internet:

      www.jammer-store.com

  21. Zad
    Flame

    Disappearing off the radar...

    Amazingly, as soon as you put a tracker car inside a welded steel crate, the signal can't get out. Who would have thought it!

    The words "disappear off the radar" in the original article are really going to get some stupid people jumping to conclusions, and was a very poor choice of phrase. Then again I would expect nothing less from someone who has written a report stating the blindingly obvious. Incidentally, military P-code systems use a different frequency with a much wider signal spread based around a different centre frequency and wouldn't be blocked with these jammers.

    The interesting stuff will be when someone hacks together some FPGA gubbins and a transmitter and generates fake location info. That will really put the cat among the pigeons. It will royally mess up road charging because you could make your car believe it was hundreds of miles away. For that matter you could make other people's cars believe they were in the London charging zone, or suddenly doing 90mph. Sideways.

    1. Jon 52

      or redirect

      The bbc had a similar story on spoofing being feasable today.

      The best use would be to redirect secure vans to dark allyways or even abandened warehouses, the drivers blindly following satnavs, then ... profit

  22. Petrea Mitchell
    Troll

    Next steps

    Obviously, the solution is to have cars respond to the jammers by immobilizing themselves if they lose their GPS signals.

    Next problem: cars mysteriously shutting down in tunnels...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nope, GSM won't help either

    "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 service"

    Hello, on which planet has this chap been? If you can jam GPS, you can jam GSM/3G too. As a matter of fact, a China made jammer with a reach of a good 20 meters and rechargeable battery costs USD 30. A friend of mine bought one to annoy a sales rep that keeps visiting his hotdesk area :-).

  24. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    Hot damn' diggety...

    ...where can I get one of those little bad boys?

    Not a thief, mind you... I just object to being tracked.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    P'd off bikers

    I reckon every motorbike and bicycle in the country should be equipped with both a GPS jammer and a cellphone jammer, maybe that'll teach the tintop cowboys to stop playing with their toys and pay attention to what's going on outside the big shiny glass screen in front of them.

    1. seven of five

      Won´t help

      Cagers will certainly find another way of distracting them from the menial parts of travel. Onboard DVD comes to my mind.

      Which is locked during driving for the front passengers, but: drivers seat all the way back, passenger seat all the way forward, now you can look at the picture on the back of the headrest. BTSTgot away alive. Morons.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Dumb

    ".......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..."

    Except most of the commercial jammers block both - eg lightinthebox - they are getting really cheap too because there's a mass market for human rights reasons in the far and middle Easts. Cell blocking is equally, if not more, important in these applications.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    2 watts

    "jammer with an output of about 2 watts [can] swamp any signal from the GPS satellites over an area of a few metres.

    You need a jammer of a damn site less than two watts. In fact those of us building radio comms struggle to prevent jamming to co-located gps antennas even when transmitting on a frequency no where near gps frequencies. A bit of intermod products from a couple of transmitters can be enough. A typical gps received signal is so near the noise floor that milliwatts at the right frequency is sufficient at a couple of meters. (bit more difficult with military gps L1/L2 receivers with anti-jam capabilities- but still not that difficult)

  28. Adrian Midgley 1

    strictly, trilaterate, rather than triangulate

    Using the time of flight of the signals and an accurate clock.

    You note that the cell antennas don't swing round like ... well, like old radar dishes or HFDF loops.

  29. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    Really, really handy - peace and quiet

    I have one of these jammers hidden in my motorscooter - I use it to stop idiots who drive motorbkies/scooters whilst texting or talking (both illegal here in VietNam).

    The other one, housed in a realistic cell phone case, I use elsewhere such as on public transport WHERE PEOPLE SHOUT. Or in restaurants. Really handy and good for about 50-100 metres.

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