back to article Forget cyber crims, it's time to start worrying about GPS jammers – UK.gov report

The UK must reduce the dependency of its critical infrastructure and emergency services on GPS technology to mitigate against the potentially disastrous impact of signal jamming, a government report has warned. In a forward to the long-awaited doc from the Government Office of Science, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    And yet the UK is presently in the middle of a plan to remove the dedicated radio network for the emergency services, and to put them on a shared service with the EE 4G mobile network, and they don't consider that to be a problem?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      a friend who was installing 4G BTS

      said that they don't have on-site co-gen/UPS because of the excellent 99.99% commercial mains availability,

      in my day in TELCO land we used to like 4 x 9's after the decimal point = 99.9999

      whats the point of ultra gold platinum premium access to LTE if there's no resilience to a mains outage?

      of course my mate might have been winding me up?

      p.s. last time I looked at a critical infrastructure run by GPS, it trusted and locked onto 1 x satellite, I tried to suggest that it should also carefully evaluate all the other visible space-vehicles, their relative strengths and their timing, to discover a meaconing or replay attack. My iPhone/Android now does Glonass & soon galileo will be at full strength, just need a widespread little retrofit away from the single-point-of-failure outlined in this article!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: a friend who was installing 4G BTS

        Glonass & soon galileo will be at full strength...just need a widespread little retrofit away from the single-point-of-failure outlined in this article!

        They all operate on very similar frequencies, jam GPS and you jam Galileo

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And yet the UK is presently in the middle of a plan to remove the dedicated radio network for the emergency services, and to put them on a shared service with the EE 4G mobile network, and they don't consider that to be a problem?

      I believe emergency services have priority over the general public on the network, and some dedicated facilities.

      I also believe that GPS is also used for the current dedicated radio network (TETRA, as provided by Airwave)

      1. M7S

        UK Priority on emergency networks

        No. I work for three major contractors providing frontline 999 to the public on behalf of more than one significant service. The sort of people you want turning up in a hurry when you need us.

        In one service area we have MDTs fitted to our trucks, but these fault at least once every few shifts, and whilst there is a "company phone" in the vehicle as backup this does not have any ACCOLC or other special simcards (whatever the new equivalent is) as we are "only a private company". Usually when we book on with control we are asked for a backup number as well which will be the crew's own mobile. Again there's no way for us to get any priority simcards that we are aware of.

        In the second services area we only get issued one airwave handset with all instructions coming by text, everything else is done on crew's own mobiles and crew's own GPS units suckered onto the windscreen, so the comms is even less resilient, and the third service is a major voluntary provider so with less budget there are not enough airwaves if quite a few of use are working (and these all have to be booked in and out of a central depot over an hour away, for "security reasons" before and after each shift) and we rely on point to point VHF (probably more resilient) and again crew's own mobiles.

        Whilst there would undoubtedly be some abuse of allowing all front line contractors to get priority simcards, the current view from HMG services is that such things are for senior managers only and we peons should just learn to use the equipment properly as it was very expensive and cannot possibly go wrong.

        As the services move towards 5G, then someone needs to sort out a system whereby those of us doing this kind of work can get access to the infrastructure we need to provide that service, currently it is simply not there.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

          Presumably a priority sim card only helps if you can get on the network.

          If there is a major incident in central London and a million people all try and call home so say they OK.

          Does the GSM standard allow for shutting down all non-priority handsets in a cell ?

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

            Wikipedia suggests that low priority handsets can be told to go away in an emergency. I guess this "conversation" will add load to the network though.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

            Does the GSM standard allow for shutting down all non-priority handsets in a cell ?

            That's what MTPAS does (and ACCOLC did). Well, it doesn't shut down lesser handsets, it just doesn't allow them access to the network

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

              Does MTPAS block the handset from sending a signal or does it just stop the call routing?

              Emergency services could still be blocked if all the RF channels are busy being sending the "you have been blocked" recording

          3. J. Cook Silver badge
            Go

            Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

            FWIW, that happened on 9/11 in NYC; the cell network decided to have a bit of a tea break when everyone on the island either tried to make, or receive a cell call within minutes of each other. The land lines faired slightly better, at least.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

            I had a priority marker attached to my company mobile a few years ago. Reason: Emergency contact for surveillance (not the UK, but continent).

            The GSM/UMTS system has provisions for this. If a prio sim tries to log into a cell tower and all availiable slots are full, then the system kicks other sims from this tower/antenna block until the prio sim has a stable connection.

            I could test that during several new years, being on call while partying with some friends on a remote location near a city, that was serviced by one tower.

            My mobile had rock steady contact and no problems with calls. The others had only intermittent contact to the tower.

            One year I was not on call and did switch the phone on to check something and several pals got kicked during calls from the network. (with resulting "no service" even though having 3 bars reception).

            Getting SMS or sending one did havoc to the connections of the other mobiles when on heavy loaded towers. SMS uses part of the signaling bandwidth.

            I moved on since and lost this nifty feature.

          5. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: UK Priority on emergency networks

            Yes it's called white listing. This was uses in NYC after 9/11.

      2. dermotw

        GPS is used, but its not REQUIRED. The 'ol TETRA system can operate when its missing...

    3. Stuart 22

      A GPS free day?

      If I could lower the level of this conversation - I'm a cyclist. These days ride leaders are invariably led by a GPS enabled Garmin. Brilliant until something happens, we are delayed, the battery goes flat, it falls out of its holder or (whisper) the code crashes.

      I'm the the one with an OS in my back pocket so disaster is adverted. OK for now but an increasing number of leaders can't properly read a map. Because they never had to. This unknowing dependence on a fragile radio signal goes right up the life endangering scale.

      Plan all you want. But imho the only way to safeguard the planet is for the US/Russia/EU to turn their systems off for a day so to concentrate minds so we should know the backup will really work. Signalled well in advance 'cos I'm not taking a flight that day ...

    4. Mage Silver badge

      Cost saving

      To save money, at least the following use GPS simply as a cheap clock:

      Mobile Masts (all kinds).

      DAB SFN

      DTT SFN

      There are others I've forgotten.

      1. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: Cost saving

        If they're doing it properly, then they're feeding the GPS timing pulses into ntpd (or equivalent). If they're doing it properly, then ntpd is configured to record how much the system clock is drifting from UTC (as supplied by GPS). If they're doing it properly, then ntpd will be configured to also use networked references (some of which will also be GPS, some of which will derive from atomic time standards). If they're doing it properly, then ntpd will be configured to use the system clock, as compensated by the recorded drift, as a last resort.

        With a sensible set up, you'll know the time with less than one second of error for days after GPS fails and all the networked time sources also fail.

        It's neither hard nor expensive to get right.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big Brother is Watching You

    to the point where jammers are now sought and owned by everyday citizens seeking to hide from a perceived risk of being tracked during their day-to-day lives.

    We are long past the days when the statement 'I don't have anything to hide so let them track me' meant something.

    People just want to be able to go about their lives without the threat that someone is tracking your every move just because they can.

    By all means reduce the Government and the services delivered with our tax money dependency on GPS but don't replace that with something even more draconian.

    There is a reason that I keep location services on my phone OFF unless I really need to use them.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother is Watching You

      That won't help much, tracking was being done long before most phones had GPS added. As your mobile's existance is picked up by a base station then you can get a pretty good idea of somebodies distance from that base station via the signal strenth. If your in range of 3 base stations then you can get a pretty good accuracy through triangulation.

      Worth noting that all phones keep signalling base stations, even when turned off. Easily verifiable yourself with basic radio equipment, or by sticking a mobile in very close proximity to an unshielded speaker. The speaker will buzz when the phone is on. Turn the phone off. You'll note that it still buzzes occasionally when the turned off phone transmits.

      1. itzman

        Re: Big Brother is Watching You

        No 2G phone I have ever owned does that.

        I concede that smartphones may

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: No 2G phone I have ever owned does that.

          Unless you remove the battery, the masts track you even on 2G. So that when you are called the network can use the nearest masts.

          If you are in range of several, the best (depends on sector loading and signal quality) connects. The handset does "ranging" too so as to use minimum TX power. The operator can use three masts to quite accurately locate you. Even with one, the operator knows approximate direction (sectorised masts increase capacity) and distance (the ranging handshake).

          Even if a totally dumb 2G / GSM phone. An "agency" may or may not need a warrant to get the information.

          Then also there are MIM attacks, a working "fake" mobile mast (anyone can do this now) and it pretends to be your handset to real mast.

          Mostly neither GSM nor 3G uses the better encryptions they could use. I've no idea how good the "best" GSM and 3G is.

          There is no native voice on 4G, it's high overhead VOIP, so often operator uses 2G/3G for voice. More efficient, better capacity & range. Even if YOU only use 4G the handset may still be doing 2G GSM and/or 3G handshakes with mast.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Big Brother is Watching You

        "puts on Tin-foil hat"

        Which is why when I'm driving, my phone is switched off and inside a tin box in the boot. Not because I'm paranoid but I was involved in a traffic accident where the main cause of it was a driver on his phone. Putting it there takes a definitive action on my part to drive safely.

        This is only an interim solution as soon ALL our cars will send not only its positon but all sorts of other data to 'you know who' every minute on the minute and there will be nothing we can do about it.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          "Which is why when I'm driving, my phone is switched off and inside a tin box in the boot"

          Out of interest, what happens if you need to call the emergency services quickly?

          1. Spanners Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Big Brother is Watching You

            what happens if you need to call the emergency services quickly?

            I imagine he stops the car, gets out and gets it out of the boot. If he has been in a bad enough accident to become unable to do that, he may not have been able to use it if it had been in his pocket.

          2. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Big Brother is Watching You

            @Korev:

            > Out of interest, what happens if you need to call the emergency services quickly?

            The same thing that used to happen 2 decades ago before I owned a mobile phone,

            You might as well say I should carry an EPIRB in case I get kidnapped and dropped into a remote location so I can signal for help. Or carry a complete set of spares in the car (fan-belts, light bulbs, gaskets, o-rings, hoses, radiator/brake/hydraulic/engine/transmission fluids) for a 5-minute drive to the mall, because I might need them.

            I don't get this whole "But what if you need to make/receive a call in an emergency".

            I lived fine for 25 years without that immediate capability to hand, I have no trouble doing without now. It is a convenience, nothing more.

            I know how to navigate with a street atlas (a topographical map and compass for that matter) - in fact I prefer it when planning trips, as it shows more classes of roads in a single high-level view rather than the limited road information you get when trying to use google maps for example, you often have to zoom in so far to see anything but main highways that you can't use it to plan a trip.

            I can live without the convenience of a phone on my person for a few hours, even a few days. I went on a 10-day cruise about 5 years back, the ship's on-board cell was so expensive to use that I never signed up and just left the phone locked in the cabin safe for the duration. It's annoying to have to do so, to not be able to contact or be contactable immediately, but it is by no means important let alone a necessity.

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Big Brother is Watching You

        Not getting the downvotes, Peter so have an upvote from me.

        Don't shoot the messenger folks. Be smarter about your everyday habits.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. paulll Bronze badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          It used to be a thing, back in the days of original-spec gsm phones. Of course the 900mhz-ish carrier's a little bit out of the audible range, but I believe the buzz was a harmonic of a timing signal modulated onto the carrier. Wasn't uncommon for it to interfere with stereos; personally I usually knew when my Philips Diga was about to ring because guitar amps were sensitive to it and I was usually near a guitar amp in them halcyon days .... bz b b bz b b bz b b bz b b bzzzzzzz, phone rings. Of course that was 1998 and I haven't heard a phone do that in close to two decades, very much a thing of the past.

          1. JaitcH
            Meh

            bz b b bz b b bz b b bz b b bzzzzzzz

            Still happens to me when I have a cell handsets (3G-4G) on my work table near my computers which have audio systems attached to them.

            I also carry a portable 25W UHF MESH (digital) transceiver which has zero affects on computers.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: bz b b bz b b bz b b bz b b bzzzzzzz

              Sorry, I don't believe you on this one, at least on every handset that I have been in contact with, OFF is OFF.

              I'm an IT professional, not a preist so i'm not demanding beleif. Just duplicate the conditions and see what happens.

              Once upon a time I was assigned an urgent job to figure out why $importantperson had problems with their deskphone in conference mode getting intermittant severe interference that made it unusable. Problem traced to their mobile when it received a text while they were on a call. Turning the mobile off resolved the issue and ticket solved. Ticket was then reopened at a point afterwards with a comment along the lines of "it still does for about a second every so often". Problem immediately traced back to mobile (this was many years ago, so would have been pre-smartphone) transmitting while turned off.

              Que a couple of us scratching our heads and duplicating the conditions to recreate the issue, figure out what was happenning and then figuring out how to eliminate the problem. IIRC it happened on several phones and we fixed it by taking the handset apart and reconfiguring it so that the conference mode used external speakers. The downside was that the speaker was also used for ringing, as we discovered when somebody rang the phone...

              I'm tempted to set up a little experiment....switch off a phone and leave it next to a speaker in a very quiet place. Set up some audio recording equipment and leave it overnight. Should be easy enough to review the recorded WAV file and see any spikes where the speakers have picked up activity from the phone (better than listening to 12 hours of audio anyway)

              Give it a go. Make sure that you get noise from your speaker setup when you send/receive a text first though.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: bz b b bz b b bz b b bz b b bzzzzzzz

                Problem immediately traced back to mobile (this was many years ago, so would have been pre-smartphone) transmitting while turned off.

                And how did you determine the mobile was transmitting to a mobile network while turned off?

                I suspect, as others have said, a mobile does not perform a controlled transmit to a mobile network when turned off. However, given the nature of the circuitry, there is no reason not to suspect some inductive build up of charge that is discharged in a way that can cause interference to nearby equipment.

                So I suggest you try the experiment, but with the phone's ground line actually connected to a real earth - charging cable plugged in and attached to mains but with mains power switched off.

        2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          So you've never had a mobile near an inadequately shielded speaker when a call is arriving? You've never heard the noises the speaker makes? Yes, the range is very short (no more than a couple of feet, normally), but it's not zero either. Equally, it doesn't mean that the speaker is picking up RF from the mobile transmissions. It may well be picking up noise from the non-radio parts of the phone, which tend to wake up when a call is being negotiated. (By definition, a mobile phone cannot be totally free from RF emissions, and it's hard to prevent "unwanted" emissions from getting out of a box that's *designed* to emit RF.)

          No, I realise that's not a physics-based explanation, but, frankly, empirical evidence of something happening, even if it doesn't explain *what*. Yes, a physics-based explanation would be able to explain the origin of the noise, but the noise is real.

          EDIT: oops, ninja'ed by paulll

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            Re: Big Brother is Watching You

            Not just noises being picked up through a speaker. I've had instances where I've been somewhere and recording audio either on a camera or dedicated digital audio recorder and have forgotten to put my phone in aircraft mode. The recorded audio is punctuated with occasional beeps and burps as my phone picks up emails or whatever in the background.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          "Seriously, the response of a typical speaker is from about 60 to 8000Hz (spend more, ymmv of course). The voice coil is inside a fairly large magnet which also shields it electrically rather well. There's no obvious means of rectifying a microwave signal to provide a strong enough LF chirp to activate a speaker."

          The microwave signal is not directly coupled to the speaker but through the amplifier/speaker driver/radio receiver etc. There are lots and lots of diodes in the electroncis connected to the speaker which can convert the modulated extremely high microwave frequencies down to something the speaker can respond to. The actual power probably comes from the electronics driver/amplifier.

          I am a bit surprised you doubt this can happen I thought everyone had heard a few odd noises when putting a phone next to some audio devices. I must have heard this several hundred if not thousands of times. A credible mechanism is nice but does not over rule every day observations. Hopefully my explanation in any case provides a mechanism.

        4. really_adf

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          @Voyna i Mor

          Audio amplifiers in domestic equipment easily pick up mobile phone transmission IME. I guess it's the transmitter on/off or other low frequency pattern in the signal.

          I've also seen disturbance on a CRT TV (analogue UHF signal) but not sure at what stage the mobile signal is getting in.

          The effect is real, whatever the mechanism (I'd be interested to know more too).

        5. tfb Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          The 'phones still transmitting when they're off' thing is junk: you can know this is not true by looking at battery drain: turn your phone off with a newish, fully-charged, leave it a month and check the battery state: if it's still charged then it hasn't been talking to basetations.

          The interference thing is real: I believe it is caused because the RF transmitter in the phone takes quite significant current, and takes it in short, frequent (but kHz not GHz) pulses. So the PCB traces / wires which take power to the transmitter act as antennae and this leaks into audio systems. This used to be really common but I suspect design has got better (or phone transmitter power has gone down a lot, or both) and it no longer seems to be such a problem.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Big Brother is Watching You

            It does sound similarly unbelivable to the bunk that was touted a few years ago that leaving laptops in your car, even hidden in the boot, was bad because the batteries could be detected: automagically somehow, I never did get a non-nutjob answer as to how. Leave a laptop in a car with bluetooth and/or WiFi active and yes, it could be detected, but that's a different matter although it is considerably more likely that somebody just saw the laptop being put into the boot.

            1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

              Re: Phones transmitting even when off

              I'm pretty sure the whole thing about phones transmitting even when switched off (so the government can track you) is bunk, put around by the tin-foil hat brigade. My only evidence thus far is that had an old fully charged phone which had been put to one side, and when I picked it up months later it still had 99% charge - basically what I'd expect an elderly battery to lose just by sitting on the shelf.

              I'm tempted to set up a little experiment....switch off a phone and leave it next to a speaker in a very quiet place. Set up some audio recording equipment and leave it overnight. Should be easy enough to review the recorded WAV file and see any spikes where the speakers have picked up activity from the phone (better than listening to 12 hours of audio anyway)

          2. Mage Silver badge

            Re: ... this is not true by looking at battery drain?

            No you can't easily, as the handshake is of short duration and not often.

            1. Mage Silver badge

              Re: ... this is not true by looking at battery drain?

              Some or many phones, off might be really off. Often the screen etc uses a separate CPU to the RF part.

              I'd not make assumptions if I was doing anything clandestine. Also someone can clone your phone to a modified one with additional tracking & monitoring.

        6. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          You are surely not seriously saying you have never heard this sound

          https://freesound.org/people/RutgerMuller/sounds/50699/

          Really?

      5. tfb Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Big Brother is Watching You

        Right. And phones have magic batteries which somehow allow them to talk to their basestations when they are off without running the battery down. But there's a giant conspiracy to keep the existence of these batteries from us, so they pretend to run down in a day when the phone is on. This is because the batteries use nucular technology harvested from alien corpses from the Rosslyn incident also they are irradiating our brains most phone users have cancer in their ears from this of course we never went to the moon hitler lives there the its flat i tell you flat there is no conspiracy they're coming for you they're coming i tell you coming soon the light

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Big Brother is Watching You

          ... Are you channeling aManFromMars?

      6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Big Brother is Watching You

        Worth noting that all phones keep signalling base stations, even when turned off. Easily verifiable yourself with basic radio equipment, or by sticking a mobile in very close proximity to an unshielded speaker. The speaker will buzz when the phone is on. Turn the phone off. You'll note that it still buzzes occasionally when the turned off phone transmits.

        Sorry, I don't believe you on this one, at least on every handset that I have been in contact with, OFF is OFF. Off is rather more thorough than "airplane mode" where all of the radio transmit circuitry must be disabled but can still operate in receive mode. If you consider "off" as "screen is dark" then that is not off either. Removing a SIM is also not "off" as a SIM is not required for network communication, just for user (not handset) identification. I can believe that some phones may have "deep sleep" mode but that is not "off" - doubtless similar to the idiotic way that it was near impossible to close apps in W8.

  3. msknight Silver badge

    Didn't we have such a system?

    I believe that we had a radio, land based positioning system. If memory served, it obviously covered just the UK but was turned off when GPS gained a wider foot hold. I'm going to try and see if Google will tell me what it was. I could be remembering completely wrongly, though.

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: Didn't we have such a system?

      You mean LORAN and eLORAN

      Hey best thing:

      https://www.nlb.org.uk/InformationCentre/News/Documents/UK-speeds-ahead-with-rollout-of-eLoran-stations-to-backup-vulnerable-GPS/

      Lets demolish these expensive pieces of equipment:

      https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/europe-gives-up-on-eloran#gs.UxcCsGI

      1. msknight Silver badge

        Re: Didn't we have such a system?

        Apparently it was Gee... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gee_(navigation)

        "Post-war use

        Gee was of such great utility that the hurried deployments during the war were rationalized as the basis for an ongoing and growing navigational system. The result was a set of four chains, South Western, Southern, Scottish and Northern, which have continuous coverage over most of the UK out to the northeastern corner of Scotland. These were joined by a further two chains in France, and a single chain in the UK occupation zone in northern Germany.[18]"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Didn't we have such a system?

          Well having had the fun of finding where I was in a desert in pre-GPS days, the precursor systems weren't that precise - Loran was +- 10 kms (I think Gee could do +- a few hundred metres, but that's way before my time and not available outside Europe). We used Omega, which was about +-10km , better if we could average signals for 24 hours or so, but I wouldn't want to rely on it to find my nearest Costa coffee. In practice old fashioned map reading was probably better, the electronics just served as reminder of how inaccurate the map datum was.

    2. Colonel Mad

      Re: Didn't we have such a system?

      There was Decca as well.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Didn't we have such a system?

        Not to mention a sextant.

        In my neighbourhood it seems that all beige Honda Accords stop to take a reading before turning at a junction

    3. peter_dtm
      Mushroom

      Re: Didn't we have such a system?

      Gee was nicked from the Germans (OBOE) and developed by the DECCA Company.

      DECCA was developed & deployed worldwide (oh apart from part of N America; but they used the Canadian chain anyway - because it wasn’t invented there).

      Accuracy a couple of metres to a few 10s of metres IFF you truly understood the system. You RENTED DECCA boxes; never sold.

      Then there was HiFix DECCA - accurate to better than 1 metre.

      Then someone copied DECCA onto a lower base frequency system and thus we got LORAN - if you were lucky you could get Kilometre level accuracy.

      Then the idiots who wouldn’t allow DECCA in their country; made an even lower base frequency version called OMEGA (pronounced OH ME GAA) which was so crap; that sat in Portsmouth Polly with all the relevant updates and correction tables (5 or 7 BIG thick manulals plus addendums) and the very latest over the air updates (changed HOURLY) we still managed to get one fix in Scarpa Flo; one fix somewhere near Paris; and one on the Dogger Bank. The OMEGA readings were taken on 3 consecutive minutes. yup; ideal conditions and it was still crap.

      Or there was your trusty chronometer (rated against MSF/WWV/WWVH/BBC0 and a sextant with some spherical trig tables and a star/plant/moon or Sun.

      eLoran; well it was better than LORAN but no sane navigator relied on it with in 50 nautical miles of the coast.

      That reference triggered a few memories - Hyperbolic Radio Navigation Aids; DECCA was amazing; Loran not so much; and OMIGA was/is just ridiculous- basic radio propagation theory suggested it would never work; quite correctly.

      1. JaitcH
        Unhappy

        Re: Didn't we have such a system? (Decca)

        Decca was designed by an American, William J. O'Brien, but after the US Government failed to show an interest (therefore no funds coming) it was brought to the UK where it was developed into a viable product by Decca and their Harvey F. Schwarz, chief engineer of the Decca Record company and a friend of O'Brien. It was used in the Normandy beach landings.

        After WW2 it was adopted, starting in the UK, as a wide area navigation system, for marine use. Then expanded to aeronautical applications. The 5-frequency group was around 100kHz - south of the BBC longwave station. Tests, using BOAC aircraft, proved that Decca could reach Moscow - for potential use as bomber navigation for the RAF.

        HiFix was a HF (1.6 mHz) short-range system that used two transmitters and a locating receiver.

        Decca was based on receiver equipment rental providing a healthy cash flow. After joining the EU the new rules forced Third Parties to develop receivers, thereby reducing Decca income. Finally, the EU forced the UK government to stop financing Decca just as GPS took off.

        Wikipedia has some decent descriptions of Decca > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decca_Navigator_System < and LORAN > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LORAN <. The main difference between Decca and LPRAN was that the former used phase comparison and the latter timing comparison to ascertain location.

    4. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Didn't we have such a system?

      There are two issues:

      1) Navigation.

      2) Systems using GNSS / GPS etc merely as an accurate clock. They are a bigger issue.

  4. Aitor 1

    Wow

    The things should be illegal.. it took me about 2 mins to find a specialized uk website for the devices.

    They ofc have devices that block 2G, 3G, 4G, Wifi (2 and 5Ghz) and GPS with a single device.

    Could not be more illegal...

    I refrained from posting the url, as I dont want to give them more publicity.. but man.. I hope it gets banned.

    I am not one to like bans, as in "think of the children", but these things should be banned unless "a good reason is given".

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Wow

      "but man.. I hope it gets banned."

      ...after being installed in every cinema/theatre in the land.

      1. FlossyThePig

        Re: Wow

        @ S4qFBxkFFg

        ...after being installed in every cinema/theatre in the land...

        Couldn't they just install a Faraday Cage like the Gin Tub did?

    2. john.jones.name
      Mushroom

      Re: Wow

      Anyone with a basic knowledge of electronics can build a jammer its not sophisticated stuff,

      anyone ever had interference on a radio ?

      banning frequency jammers wont help... 2 things will

      1/ Have more sources of truth on different frequency (eLoran, Galileo)

      2/ Inertial Navigation System (INS) - it uses motion sensors (accelerometers), rotation sensors (gyroscopes) and magnetic sensors (magnetometers), to continuously calculate by dead reckoning the position, the orientation and the velocity (direction and speed of movement) of a moving object without the need for external references.

      Mandate that navigation systems must have INS so that when external systems fail the whole thing does not go dark and the ambulance/ship/critical system is not Fecking USELESS GPS i.e. the system should be useable without a internet connection and weak signals beamed from space...

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Wow

        AFAIK Inertial Navigation System are either very big and expensive, or else not very accurate for large distances / long times as frequently required by location applications. But I guess a combination of multiple satellite systems and a basic INS could be combined into something that can reliably defeat limited local jamming.

        I'm not sure it would be possible to defeat a fairly large-scale sophisticated jamming (after all if someone is jamming GPS how difficult is it to also jam Galileo, GLONASS etc?) without using very sophisticated (and therefore expensive and possibly large) INS

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wow

          To quantify 'not very accurate' I have seen drift values approaching 40 metres/minute for systems built on cheap sensors.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Wow

            To quantify 'not very accurate' I have seen drift values approaching 40 metres/minute for systems built on cheap sensors.

            Aviation spec is 0.5Nmi after 1hour - but that's for a massive aircraft flying relatively smoothly.

            The accuracy for something on a car bouncing around on a twisty country road isn't so good.

        2. john.jones.name

          INS

          for systems like a ambulance a Inertial Navigation System (INS) has wheels to add to the data

          (early GPS used this but the germans gave up on it because of ease and cost reasons)

          sea vessels can have simple shielding and big INS systems are easy to mount

          (plus they don't turn quickly or stop quickly so much easier to model)

          there is no reason why not to mandate a Navigation system with INS for emergency services and shipping

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Wow

          Re: "AFAIK Inertial Navigation System are either very big and expensive, or else not very accurate for large distances / long times as frequently required by location applications."

          https://www.vectornav.com/products/vn-200?gclid=CjwKCAiA78XTBRBiEiwAGv7EKvBg2I0mq_L7R2bpr83cz4MOHA8SgdEDzU64DVtr9YbCvHN33phXTRoC_TQQAvD_BwE

          Don't know about price, but suspect could easily be incorporated into a Radio/CD player sized vehicle mounted navigation unit that would carry a price tag similar to a high end unlocked mobile phone.

          As for long distance accuracy, I'm not sure if that is really a problem for road vehicles in and around our cities, particularly if (under normal conditions) the system also used mobile mast triangulation and other local environment feedbacks (eg. OCR streetsigns) to augment the positional data.

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            Re: Wow

            "other local environment feedbacks (eg. OCR streetsigns) to augment the positional data."

            Emergencies - fog - smoke? Fine in good visibility but OCR as a last resort doesn't sound too good.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Wow

              Fine in good visibility but OCR as a last resort doesn't sound too good.

              If visibility is that bad, the driver cannot see and the vehicle will be stationary! :)

              But as I noted, it makes sense to use environmental feedback to augment the abstract positional data: anyone who uses a satnav does this all the time: the satnav says turn left after 50 yards, but to you the driver it is obvious the turning in more like 25 yards away - do you turn based on the evidence of your eyes or on the evidence of the satnav?

              The only challenge is programming the on-board computer to do what you, the driver does automatically...

      2. Aitor 1

        Re: Wow

        Making a jammer is extremely easy as you say.

        Banning them and their use would keep most people honest, as the ones that do have knowledge are limited, and those that have the inclination even more limited.

        Most navigation systems support inertial.. even in android, etc.

        Example:

        https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.olympio.inav&hl=en_GB

        Also, most chipsets/OS combinations use several frequencies and several satellite systems, plus network triangulation plus wifi.

      3. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Wow

        "... 2/ Inertial Navigation System (INS)"

        True INS tends to be pricey. But in many applications your navigation system will know where it is before jamming starts and has a map and compass so it can keep track of turns in the roads to update its approximate position. That (and impulses from wheel sensors, for distance travelled, and from steering wheel sensors, for heading) was what was used in the original, pre-GPS, car navigation systems. Might not be too difficult to bolt on to GPS-based navigation systems. Depends what accuracy you're looking for.

        Incidentally there are compact INS modules for navigating in mines, etc.

        http://www.appliedminingtech.com/mining-guidance-system/

        http://gpsatsys.com.au/products/other/inertial-labs/

      4. tfb Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Wow

        Aren't spark transmitters reall rather effective jammers? Not that I have ever made one, no, of course not.

        1. Joe 37

          Re: Wow

          Once upon a time I was asked to set up a wireless network. In a welding shop.

          Told them it wouldn't work. Refused to go any farther with the bad idea. They got someone who would.

          It didn't work oddly enough. It would work if nobody was welding but...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow

      These are extremely useful in the 'quiet carriage'

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Wow

        These are extremely useful in the 'quiet carriage'

        One would hope that they were of more use outside the quiet carriage

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      Jamming is the least of our worries. As the recent drone swarm incident in Syria showed the tech to alter location data is out there and in use. In fact, based on that incident, the old Iran drone incident is also worth revisiting.

      From this perspective, emergency services are the least of our worries. 50 000 ton displacement ferries and container ships move in port based on GPS. A ship is not a car or even airplane. Its inertia is mind boggling. Just think what can happen if the coordinates are off by 50m and the on duty officer does not notice it in time.

    5. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      Yeah but by law it's only illegal to use but not illegal to own.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    "So the use of jamming devices is an offence – but possession of a device is not. "This means that courts have to prove intent to use, which can be difficult" said the report."

    I have never understood that kind of law. I remember the same about small FM transmitters and TV-senders that operated on licenced frequencies.

    If it's ILLEGAL to actually use for the intended purpose, how can you legally sell them? Even guns... you can't sell a gun that can actually fire, you have to legally nobble it if you're selling it "not intended for use", etc.

    Surely if you need a licence to operate it, you should have to show that licence to purchase it?

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I have never understood that kind of law. I remember the same about small FM transmitters and TV-senders that operated on licenced frequencies.

      That's what make Britain great, joined up thinking when making laws. Part of the problem is that there will be people who have a legitimate use for some of these things. If you make them illegal then you're making it quite difficult for people with a real need for them to obtain them. Take radio scanners as an example you're not supposed to use that to listen to frequencies you're not authorised to. However there are legitimate reasons for having one if you work in broadcasting for example. I can't think of a legitimate use of a jammer outside of law enforcement.

      I did one bus journey where the iBus system (which does the stop announcements) in London wasn't working for most of the journey. When one gentleman got off the system sprang back to life and we were told of the next stop. I couldn't prove he had a jammer but shortly after he got on the bus at the bus station it just showed a star on the display. When he got off it worked again - coincidence?

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Your man on the bus could have been demonstrating the Pauli Effect

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Your man on the bus could have been demonstrating the Pauli Effect

          Can't discount it but I'd like to think he was employing something technological.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well timestamps at a µs level...

    ... can be done via simple modifications on your standard longwave time signal. For example the German DCF77 has a phase modulated portion which allows for timestamps with a reprocability in the µs range.

    Your cheap sub-100-Euro time receiver will ignore that, but if you're willing to spend more cash, it's right there.

    Navigation is a bit more complex. Systems like LORAN are _far_ to imprecise for navigating around a city. Navigation based on which radiophone basestations you are close to you seems more sensible. Of course you can add accuracy by setting a standard for basestations to derive their timing from standard time, so you'll know that the start of a timeslot is always at n*x ms, with 1000/x being a whole number. That way you might get a bit more accuracy. You won't solve the basic problem that all ground based systems suffer severely from multipath fading.

    However we now have GPS competitors from different countries. Just build multi-system receivers and you'll always have decent signal, even if country A doesn't like you any more.

    Spoofing, however, is something no radio-based system can really solve.

    1. peter_dtm
      Flame

      Re: Well timestamps at a µs level...

      And the US Military reserve the right (and do) to reduce the accuracy of the GPS system; or even deform the signal - they exercise with this from time to time; and use it when their troops are ‘hot’ as they also have decode for the changes made; so your GPS will be 10s/100s of metres out; theirs will still be spot on (>>1 metre)

      On time stamps we did of course used to have real time signals on BBC radio stations (better than mS accuracy anywhere in the world you could get a signal) plus Rugby Radio (MSF) which was one of 3 international standard frequency and Time Signal stations (WWV and WWVH being the other two). A bit of decent kit; a knowledge of propagation and uS accuracy was almost achievable.

      MSF is of course deceased; some criminals shut it down as they didn’t understand it; or its use; ditto the BBC no longer bother to ensure the pips are correct. Ignorant bastards

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Well timestamps at a µs level...

        And the US Military reserve the right (and do) to reduce the accuracy of the GPS system; or even deform the signal - they exercise with this from time to time; and use it when their troops are ‘hot’ as they also have decode for the changes made; so your GPS will be 10s/100s of metres out; theirs will still be spot on (>>1 metre)

        I believe that they retained the ability to do this selectively by region. This meant that they could degrade the accuracy of the civilian signal in just the area of the conflict and not everywhere. Clinton told them to turn off this feature known as Selective Availability. The latest generation of satellites - the GPS 3 - don't have (at least publicly admitted to) SA and therefore this can't be used again. There's more here https://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/modernization/sa/data/

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Well timestamps at a µs level...

        Audio timestamps on Radio stations are increasingly hard to do. For analog radio you'd have to do them at the transmitter, as you'll have a random non-constant delay to the transmitter. (e.g. when switching to another source when your primary one was broken)

        With digital radio you have SFNs which mean that your time of transmision, and to some degree, time of reception, are much more defined. However I doubt anybody would go through all that trouble considering the transmitters get their time from GPS anyhow.

        I've seen the MSF signal on spectrograms and glanced over the specifications on Wikipedia. It doesn't seem to be suitable for high accuracy timing as it's far to narrowband and doesn't include anything you could reasonably well cross correlate with. So it's accuracy is limited to milliseconds in any case... you can achieve that with just any random Internet access and NTP.

      3. Ed_UK

        Re: Well timestamps at a µs level...

        "MSF is of course deceased"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_from_NPL_(MSF) says it's still up. Unfortunately, I no longer have my old CR100 receiver to listen for myself. Not many radios tune down to 60kHz these days.

  7. andy gibson

    Galileo

    I'm just glad we don't have to rely on the US GPS system and have a big part in the European Galileo project. Oh.....

    http://gpsworld.com/brexit-fallout-galileo-center-moves-from-uk-to-spain/

  8. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    FFS - Measure the risk first

    So outside of a military strike on the UK when we'll have bigger things to worry about, plus the odd criminal gang who are totally paranoid, just how big a risk is there?

    Another example - how many people have needed an ambulance and been in a signal jammer? My bet is somewhere between 10 and none. (They will fob this off with no research has been done, but.....")

    I'm struggling to come up with anything that isn't significant and world changing. Everything else is an inconvenience by comparison.

    Is this a scare tactic by a Vendor to sell some kit, hence Child Catcher.

    1. Marcus Fil

      Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

      Read the paper. One of the principle uses of GPS is NOT navigation, but reference timing for things such as GSM base stations, Digitial TV broadcast etc. Yes, you can fit a local atomic clock card, but why pay a few extra pounds? Now a simple amplifier block added to a pocket GNSS jammer plus mains supply or nest of batteries and instead of say 30 m radius you could take out a county. Hide a few hundred of those around the country with a nice random 'twinkle' jamming sequence and the excrement encounters the rotatary ventilator in a most entertaining fashion. Potential problem known about for yonks, but now, finally, being articulated publicly.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

        Ok you have articulated the potential problem, and massively hyped the scope with an implausible scenario.

        Now whats the use case that leads to that problem? Outside of war or a particularly sophisticated terrorist/criminal attack in the decade when they are more likely to use a white van, a ships anchor or a twitter bot.

        I'll say it again. Articulate the risk probability AS WELL AS the consequences, otherwise you are just fear mongering.

        Risk 101

        https://www.cgerisk.com/knowledgebase/Risk_matrices

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

        Marcus: "Hide a few hundred of those around the country with a nice random 'twinkle' jamming sequence "

        They'd be hard to hide putting out that sort of power. It doesn't matter how twinkly they are (trade off between stealth and jamming effectiveness) they'd be easy to find cos they have to put out a high power spectral density to get over the spread spectrum processing gain of the GPS front end

        Critical military systems already have GPS aerials which can steer multiple nulls in their antenna pattern to counteract jammers and, depending on the platform, give a bearing for the jammer.

        1. Marcus Fil

          Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

          "Critical military systems already have GPS aerials which can steer multiple nulls in their antenna pattern to counteract jammers and, depending on the platform, give a bearing for the jammer."

          I know. Some crucial elements left out of my first post for effin obvious reasons. Even ~fifteen years ago an attack on (then mostly) GPS was seen as an easy win for more clued up (foreign state sponsored?) terrorist (more correctly saboteour) types. It always seen as more hype from the professionally paranoid until someone does it and then the Daily Fail want to know why "we" weren't more prepared. In that ~15 years many more industries have come to rely on GNSS without properly accounting (literally) for reversionary measures. As is apparent from some of the comments some people are still refusing to get it - that is their choice - I just hope none of them are in charge of something critical.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

            Re: It always seen as more hype from the professionally paranoid until someone does it

            I would put Charles Curry (founder of GPS resilience company Chronos Technology and contributor to the report) in the "professionally paranoid" category, unless he can provide a rational real-world basis for his comment: "What is to stop someone from switching on a high power jammer in central London and taking out the financial services sector?".

            I would have thought a more accurate scenario would be that the jammer would take out Uber and other mobile phone-based taxi app's - in this case your fall back (currently) is to use a black cab, who will have the knowledge and an A-to-Z stashed in the glovebox...

          2. dermotw

            Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

            Guys, guys... I've been going down though this thread...

            Its true that all the mobile phone system masts (or at least the systems I am familiar with!) use GPS as a clock reference (but usually not primarily as a time reference, they use it to maintain clock accuracy). So what happens when its jammed? Well nothing, really. The clock accuracy starts to degrade. On the kit I am familiar with, it will take 6 MONTHS to a year for anything to shift enough to matter. I routinely see GPS fails on TETRA or GSM sites, its not critical.

      3. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

        Well atomic clocks are not "a few pounds", that's some serious investment.

        However it might be a good idea to have some fibre-based clock distribution network.

        BTW even if GPS would drop dead by now, the effect likely will take days of not weeks before it actually affects DVB-T transmissions.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: FFS - Measure the risk first

      Biggest day to day risk to emergency services vehicle reaching you in time is not GPS jamming, but (ignoring dismal road infrastructure delaying the vehicles) lack of funding / staff meaning emergency service resources are, in many areas, spread too thinly for comfort

  9. Timmy B Silver badge

    If only....

    ...there was some kind of paper based backup that could tell you the layout of roads and such. It would be handy if it came with some kind of useful direction finding device too.

    sigh.....

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: If only....

      >...there was some kind of paper based backup that could tell you the layout of roads and such. It would be handy if it came with some kind of useful direction finding device too.

      The trouble is maintaining the intelligent tools necessary to use such backups. It is amazing how many people just don't bother to learn how to use such backups or even pay sufficient attention to their surroundings to know where they are and so locate themselves on such backups.

      I often set a route on in-car navigation systems just to see if my memory can out perform it - a surprisingly frequent occurrence, particularly if the trip is being made in rush hour...

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    Critical?

    Well yes, if people can no longer read maps.

    Oh wait, GB and America have become that stupid.

    1. Timmy B Silver badge

      Re: Critical?

      "Well yes, if people can no longer read maps.

      Oh wait, GB and America have become that stupid."

      It's a sad state of affairs. As someone who can navigate off road by map and compass I know it's not exactly rocket science and I could teach most people how to do the basics in an afternoon. I'm fairly OK in navigation without map and compass using natural signs and clues too - that would take a bit longer to teach.

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Critical?

        "... using natural signs and clues too - that would take a bit longer to teach."

        There's a book for that:

        https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/natural+navigator

        1. Timmy B Silver badge

          Re: Critical?

          "There's a book for that:

          https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/natural+navigator"

          There is indeed, and I've spent some time studying under the author. There is no substitute for doing, though.

  11. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Raynet

    di di da da di di

    1. peter_dtm

      Re: Raynet

      Di dah dit Dah di dit Dah dah Di dah dit

      Or yes - but being pushed to DMR and other non resilient solutions

      The USN have re-introduced morse. But that’s about it; every thing else is just getting more and more whiz-bang. But then if we are reduced to morse & basic crystal receivers; then it probably won’t matter....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's a bigger problem for GPS

    After that fitness app effectively leaked maps of US bases, Trump is looking into it. So, the live or die decision for public GPS is going to be sold to the highest bidder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a bigger problem for GPS

      That would be a problem if it were only US-GPS available.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    End times

    "What is to stop someone from switching on a high power jammer in central London and taking out the financial services sector?”

    Oooh, excellent suggestion.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: End times

      >taking out the financial services sector

      Better be quick, as the politicians are currently on track to do this at 11pm UK time on Friday 29 March 2019.

  14. Augie

    Humm I didnt think Russia existed back in 83

    I thought it was the Soviet Union that shot down flight 007..?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Humm I didnt think Russia existed back in 83

      But they had to get 'Russia' the cyber bogeyman in there somehow.

      Only omission - but there is plenty of time to rectify it - is for some senior figure in the armed forces to make some pronouncement on this matter.

  15. James Fox

    "In a forward to the long-awaited doc from the Government Office"

    Foreword. That is all.

  16. Threlkeld

    North Korea

    The North Koreans seem to have a nuclear bomb, and a rocket capable or reaching a significant altitude with it. They don't seem to have a proven targeting and re-entry capability or much sense of responsibility, and it's quite hard to see them obtaining any of these things in the near future.

    In the circumstances, they might be tempted to try a high-altitude air-burst as a way of 'proving' their nuclear credentials without actually frying a city.

    Now, I guess that all GPS satellites are hardened against EMP damage, but I do wonder even so if enough would survive to maintain a continuous GPS and timing service worldwide. High-speed trading on the stock exchanges of the world might collapse, though personally I'd be happy to see that shut down anyway. But the consequent stock market instability would not be slight. And self-driving vehicles might become quite puzzled, along with a lot of human drivers as well.

    It isn't hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which Kim Jong Un might, just might, try his luck with this one. Chances seem to be that folk would really notice if he did.

  17. Paul Cooper

    Carrington Event

    In the 19th century, there was a massive solar flare, known as the Carrington Event. It fried telegraph systems! A far lesser event a few years ago knocked out power grids in the Eastern USA and Canada. If an event of the magnitude of the Carrington event happened today, it would fry at least a proportion, if not all, of the GNSS satellites in orbit. NASA, on their page about the Carrington Event, simply state that it is completely impractical to protect orbital hardware against an event of that magnitude. We'd get a few hours notice of such an event; possibly a bit longer if we were very clever at predicting events in the solar atmosphere. During such an event, you can forget about any low power transmissions from satellites getting through, so at the very best, you'd lose GNSS for a period of hours to days.

    Evidence from ice cores suggests that such events happen with a frequency of around 100+ years.

  18. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Time synch

    It seems that the greatest impact detailed is the loss of uS accuracy time signals. That would surely be trivial to remedy. A VHF or UHF mast on a tall building could provide a time signal to an entire city - albeit the receivers would have to be one-off calibrated with a fixed time offset to account for distance from transmitter (which will delay the signal by 1uS for every 300 meters). The one-off calibration could be automatically done using an alternative GPS time signal.

    With enough incentive it would not be difficult or particularly costly to equip every commercial FM transmitter with an accurate time signal on its RDS carrier - or nS accurate time could be sent on cellphone control channels. Again a one-off calibration of the time receiver is needed if you want uS accuracy.

    Any VHF/UHF time reference solution would be more convenient than GPS because it doesn't need an aerial with a clear view of the sky.

    1. woodcruft

      Re: Time synch

      As you say, this report seems overly concerned with how some very rich banks will cope should GPS disappear and the poor dears hence be unable to time their trades. My suggestion: they should buy a clock.

      Failing that they may want to avail themselves of this thing called NTP (network time protocol) available for free on the 'net.

      Other assorted freeloaders need to buy maps and learn how to use them. Any ocean going mariners carry sextant, clock and tables. Planes can get around without GPS too.

      1. ffRewind

        Re: Time synch

        The issue is not about having the clock, the issue is having the time reference so you know the clock is accurate and a high quality oscillator to provide holdover if the reference is lost. GPS is a cheap and accurate time reference hence being everywhere, but as the article says, it is vulnerable. NTP delivered over a wide area network is not accurate enough at the client clocks for many timing applications such as telecoms, power and finance.

        1. dermotw

          Re: Time synch

          That is so, however the Telecom ones I deal with these days use PTP for this, and it IS accurate enough (uS or better)...

          1. ffRewind

            Re: Time synch

            PTP is more accurate than NTP, and there are other technologies that can support even more accurate sub-nanosecond time transfer - but again this is distribution side not reference side, in the vast majority of cases PTP and other timing architectures rely solely on GPS for the time reference at the start of the timing chain, and it's that reliance on GPS (or GNSS to include other constellations) which is the issue this article is highlighting.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time synch

        Unfortunately because many of these banks rely on imaginary trades, the exact, synchronised time of these trades is important when some (other) system has to try to reconcile these trades. They're not transactions, because that would involve two way communications, they are simply lines in a database that the banks hope fall in an order that is beneficial to them compared to other banks perfoming similar imaginary trades - hence why they are all in arms race to "complete" these imaginary trades as fast as possible. These imaginary trades spin about really, really, really fast and somewhere along the line "wealth is created".

        It's magic!

    2. ffRewind

      Re: Time synch

      The issue with this is the time reference to the FM transmitter. Yes it’s trivial to implement time on its FM outputs but the clocks and timing infrastructure to support this are not cheap. Currently they use GPS to maintain transmit frequency accuracy but in order to provide a truly independent system from GPS they will require their own caesium clocks and ideally a time reference from a national laboratory. This all costs and there is no revenue model because if it costs users won’t use it - so this will require government mandate and probably funding to implement.

  19. Anonymous C0ward
    Pirate

    "What is to stop someone from switching on a high power jammer in central London and taking out the financial services sector?"

    Yeah, what exactly? Please?

  20. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    GPS Jammers Usually Paired With Cell Jammers

    Anyone who searches for cell or GPS jammers will quickly learn that Shenzhen (China) is the centre for jammer production. (D-I-Y types can find detailed design / assembly instructions searching for "Wave Bubble")

    Ever since I was rear-ended on my motorcycle, by a car driven by an idiot using a cell handset, all my vehicles have been equipped with Cell Jammers (now 4G) so that the most-skilled/worst drivers in the world (Vietnamese) around me can't use their cell handsets.

    These drivers even text whilst driving a motorcycle!

    The GPS 'jammer' actually outputs an erroneous location signal which must confuse Google when the same location shows against my vehicle WiFi anywhere I travel.

    And before those who think it is 'wrong' jump on their keyboards, please note that cell jammers are completely legal in most parts of the Far East (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_jammer AND https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMSI-catcher )

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An interesting idea

    Would be to figure out a way to send a GPS equivalent signal on a mostly unused wifi channel (eg in the UK that could be Channel 14) also containing emergency broadcast signals locally.

    An app installed on most phones could then use the information and display messages as needed.

    This isn't actually as stupid as it sounds, as it would only ever be used in an emergency so should stay clear otherwise. As invariably power would go out there would be less interference than usual considerably extending range.

    I could actually test this idea, the simplest method would be a TDMS based signal derived from fixed-but-secret-location atomic clocks so a "ping" would not overlap with other units.

    Also included, radiation monitoring and locations of rescue centres etc based on the known reference points. If the system detects a GNSS outage or major anomaly it turns on automagically.

  22. Nimby
    Mushroom

    A quick run and gun...

    GPS navigation: Gee, if only we had things like maps and signs on streets. That people are so stupid as to happily drive off a cliff because their GPS said so is another matter. As are people too stupid as to be able to read a map. Some things cannot be solved by technical means. (Unless you count Darwin awards.)

    GPS location request: "Where are you?" It's disturbing how many emergency response systems in the US still do not provide the available GPS data, so solve their information gap by asking one simple question.

    GPS timing: If only electronic devices container their own internal clocks which kept reasonably accurate timing without the need for frequent external synchronizing. Oh ... wait ...

    GPS relies on satellites: Horsehockey! Primary signals yes, but terrestrial augmentation is heavily widespread because sat signals are slow and positioning purely by them is inaccurate at speed. Modern GPS systems still function in urban settings without a single satellite in orbit.

    Your phone is off: Simple test: 1. Open your alarm clock feature / app. 2. Set the time for 5 minutes hence. 3. Turn off your phone. 4. Watch what happens in 5 minutes. Every phone since my first Motorola flip phone will wake up from "off" for the alarm clock. "Off" is not off, just very deep sleep. Intermittent radio communications also still happen when the phone is "off". And your carrier can provoke functions into into responding quietly while the phone remains "off", should someone ask them to. If you really want off to be off, pull the battery AND try to turn the phone on again. (Capacitors are wonderful things.)

    1. ffRewind

      Re: A quick run and gun...

      "If only electronic devices container their own internal clocks which kept reasonably accurate timing without the need for frequent external synchronizing"

      They don't. Because the clocks that can provide the level of timing accuracy required by the main consumers of high accuracy time - telecoms, finance and power - with only infrequent updates, are Rubidium or Caesium atomic clocks and these cost many thousands of pounds. These applications require sub-microsecond synchronisation between thousands of distributed nodes and to put atomic clocks at each node is cost prohibitive, hence the users use low-grade affordable clocks with GPS as a constant time reference.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: A quick run and gun...

      Re: "Your phone is off: Simple test: 1. Open your alarm clock feature / app. 2. Set the time for 5 minutes hence. 3. Turn off your phone. 4. Watch what happens in 5 minutes. Every phone since my first Motorola flip phone will wake up from "off" for the alarm clock. "Off" is not off, just very deep sleep. Intermittent radio communications also still happen when the phone is "off"."

      Just tried this on an HTC Desire 500 and a Samsung Galaxy Sii, the alarm failed to go off - suspect this is because I selected the "Power Off" option at step 3...

      Suspect if I dug out an old Nokia 6310, the results will be exactly the same...

  23. CJ Hinke

    AQZZŻA

    The will of all people is to be free. Did they really think there was going to be no resistance to overwhelming surveillance?

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