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GPS Jammer - Exploitations used by several attackers with various motives

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Today, car thieves around the world are using GPS jammers to aid their getaways, and experts say it's only a matter of time until more ominous parties catch on.

A low-power signal that creates noise and fools a GPS receiver into thinking the satellites are not available are transmitted by a jammer. Pranksters often use them to confuse police, avoid tolls and sometimes even nettle unsuspecting users. But the true extent of this threat is the unknown. Criminals could use them to hide their whereabouts from law enforcement -- and some experts fear terrorists could use high-powered jammers to disrupt GPS reception on an airplane or in military operations.

The devices pose serious societal risks, and they're unquestionably illegal to buy and use in the United States. The FCC is bullish about pursuing anyone who buys a GPS jammer and will prosecute and jail anyone who uses one. Yet they're easily bought online, and their proponents say they should stay that way. Numerous GPS jammers can be purchased for as little as $50 from numerous online sources.

"GPS is so embedded in the transportation, manufacturing industries and economies of our societies that the risk is high," said David Last, an Emeritus Professor of Bangor University in the U.K. and a well-known authority on criminal use of GPS jammers. "It's especially so in telecommunications: GPS is the ultimate source of timing for most of our telephone systems, the Internet and, in the U.S., phone cells."

All those systems are potential prey for jammers, and that's largely why they are illegal. But the devices' proponents say they can serve a purpose, and that people should have the right to buy them. And, for the time being, they can.

While GPS jammer will help you protect your personal privacy, that by itself is not a good argument for using a jammer. Anyone can hire a detective to perform a sweep of a car or personal belongings to look for GPS receivers.

Besides being illegal, or criminals thinking they can get away with using them because customs will not detect them, there are a wide variety of critical devices that could be affected, and there could be unintended consequences that cause problems.

The Air Force—tasked with deploying and maintaining GPS satellites—acknowledges that GPS systems are vulnerable, since they are widely available for public use. Of course, GPS and cell phone jammers are not exactly state of the art. The devices, which cause signal confusion and disruption, are actually like illegal cell phone jammers.

The risk is low for airplanes, which use ground-based radars for guidance and have a back-up navigation system that does not depend on satellites. Military personnel use a private GPS network. But GPS jamming could nonetheless cause confusion in the cockpit as pilots have to switch to back up navigation systems. And maritime shipments that rely on GPS coordinates for finding port locations could face problems as well.

While selling, importing, owning, or using a GPS jammer in the U.S. is illegal, and the law will actively pursue those who use these devices, GPS jammers continue to pose a potential risk if used negligently.

Not every person has access to ethical hackers, but enterprises do. The time to start leveraging experts to aid in managing your security arsenal is now, and Spirent is positioned to be your partner in your fight against cybercrime.

If you’re interested in learning more about our security solutions visit Spirent’s SecurityLabs page. If you would like this level of security expertise for your company and want to speak to our security experts directly, contact us or register for our Cybersecurity live and on-demand webinars.

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