GPS technology is increasingly becoming crucial to our everyday lives. No longer is this tracking technology only used for getting driving directions or tracking a specific package; instead it’s now used in everything from landing aircraft, guiding ships, synchronizing data on communication networks, and even helping keep power grids running. Combine this growing dependency on GPS technology with the fact that almost anyone can purchase a professional GPS jammer online, and you have the perfect ingredients for lots of chaos and damage.
GPS jammers, or anti-GPS devices as they are commonly sold, can be found online for as cheap as $30 and can be designed to be as small as a 12-volt car adapter or a cellphone; and can also be battery-powered for on-the-go jamming. The devices are marketed to concerned parties who feel like they’re the target of unwanted GPS tracking, but oftentimes their actual applications are much more nefarious.
“Criminals and car thieves can also use the devices to cover illegal behavior, and such cases have already been reported in the U.K.,” writes John R. Quain of MSNBC.
The danger of these devices comes from the fact that unregulated Asian (and Chinese in particular) factories are producing jammers and distributing them worldwide. With the proliferation and reliance on GPS, if put in the wrong hands, these jammers could cause some serious damage.
“We currently lack sufficient capabilities to locate and mitigate GPS jamming,” noted a report issued in November by the government-mandated National Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board. “It literally took months to locate such a device that was interfering with a new GPS based landing system being installed at Newark Airport, N.J.”
In its current incarnation, the frequencies that GPS signals run on are relatively weak and easy to jam. So until these hazardous devices can be quickly and effectively located, there will be a certain level of risk to anything relying on GPS technology whole cloth. Hopefully in the near future finding the source of the jammers will be efficient, and authorities will be able to disarm the interference before anything truly bad can happen.