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GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

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don

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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:57 am

GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy


By John Brandon
- FOXNews.com


An electronic device small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and big enough to conceivably bring down an airplane can be easily purchased over the Internet. All a terrorist needs is a credit card and $49.

With car thieves in the United Kingdom using GPS jammers to aid their getaways, experts say it's only a matter of time until crooks -- and, ominously, terrorists -- in the United States catch on.

Jammers transmit a low-power signal that creates signal noise and fools a GPS receiver into thinking the satellites are not available. They can be used to confuse police and avoid toll charges, and some pranksters use them to nettle unsuspecting iPhone users.

But the real 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. Fox News was able to buy GPS jammers 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.

Jammer-Store.com, a company based in Sweden, sells the GJ6 jammer for $430. Brando Workshop, based on Hong Kong, sells the Car Cigarette Anti-GPS System for $49. Jammer-Store.com touts free worldwide shipping via UPS, FedEx and others as a perk for shoppers; one site even cited U.S.-specific models.

Michael Kharkovoy, the CEO at Jammer-Store, told FoxNews.com that GPS jammers can be stowed easily in a car or a bag and can help avoid spy detection -- say, from a spouse who suspects infidelity and plants a GPS tracking device like the Zoombak in a car.

"GPS jammer will help you protect your personal privacy," said Kharkovoy. "Our new GPS jammer model GJ6 was created to block all possible tracking systems and also all civil GPS systems including GPS L1, GPS L2, and GPS L5. To run the GPS jammer you simply turn on the switch at the top of the jammer."

But that, says Bruce Romano, the legal adviser at the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, is not a good argument for using a jammer. Anyone, he says, 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, and you have no idea you are causing them," Romano said.

The Air Force -- tasked with deploying and maintaining GPS satellites -- acknowledges that GPS systems are vulnerable, since they are widely available for public use.

"GPS design has incorporated measures to ensure signal availability to users in a war fighter environment," said Andy Roake, chief of current operations at Air Force Space Command Public Affairs. "An element of signal availability is jam resistance, and that has been a key focus in the development of the satellite constellation, the ground segment, and military user equipment.

"It is an important part of what we've done with our GPS constellation, and we continually work to improve jam-resistant capability. However, we cannot discuss technical elements of how we achieve this due to the sensitivity of revealing capabilities to any potential adversary."

While government agencies will not discuss how they detect or dissuade jamming equipment, or how next-gen GPS satellites will be improved to make jamming more difficult, Last said there was one step the Bush Administration took in 2008 to counteract the jamming risk -- a high-power, ground-based system called Enhanced Loran (eLoran), which was designed to be a fall-back for GPS jamming.

"So far, the current administration has not announced any intention to proceed with eLoran," Last said, "... leaving the U.S. without the principal defense it had announced it wished to deploy."

Of course, GPS and cell phone jammers are not exactly state of the art. The devices, which cause signal confusion and disruption, are actually similar to 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.

Ronald Repasi, the FCC's Deputy Chief for the Office of Engineering and Technology, said selling, importing, owning, or using a GPS jammer in the U.S. is illegal, and he said the agency actively pursues those who use the devices. He said GPS jammers could pose a potential risk if used negligently.

"It goes to the capability of the jamming device," said Repasi.  "Higher power devices will have greater range and greater potential for interference over a wider area than lower power devices."



Original story:
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/03/ ... rous-risk/

Don
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KrisTeason

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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:58 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

I never knew they were that cheap I've got to look into one ( ;D joking). This kind've makes me wonder what the punishment for one of these would be if you were caught using it.  Interesting read Don.
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hayabusa

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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:32 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

"Criminals could use them to hide their whereabouts from law enforcement"

So for $49, all the kids on house arrest can go unwatched.........  nice.  ::)

(As if that was the biggest concern, I know... but still...)
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pizza1337

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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:15 pm

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

Only good use i can think of right now is, they can be used for military \ Gov purposes.

Its bad that anyone can get it, without a legit use, or license.

Maybe they should have license or a requirement on things like this.
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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:33 pm

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

I actually thought long and hard about equipping my car with a cell phone jammer a while back.  This happened after I was flipped off by a girl driving a stick shift, putting on make up, and talking on her cell phone.  After she almost hit my car twice, I laid on my horn.  I guess she took offense.  I was disappointed to discover cell phone jammers are illegal as well. 
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former33t

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Post Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:31 pm

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

Given the price point for the $49 model, I doubt it does much on the confusion end of jamming the signal.  Pretty sure this can be replicated with some parts from radio shack (or your local electronics store).  The higher priced model in the article that targets a number of signals is probably harder to replicate (possibly needing to cover multiple frequency ranges).

While it is scary to see these things available for the masses (laws or not), I'm convinced that anyone who really wants to do something malicious can build one of these in the garage.

Thanks for the good read Don.
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j0rDy

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Post Fri Mar 19, 2010 4:01 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

these things are available for a long time. they even got them for cell phones, which are a little more expensive, but are dropping in price also. another example from the narrow minded dutch people: over here its illegal to have a wifi adapter (that being a router or network card) that had a signal strength over 100mw. the law says: its legal to posses(sp?), but illegal to use. my question is how do they enforce this law? do they acctually send cops out with a scanner? isnt this the same?
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UNIX

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Post Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:58 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

I have only knew about cell phone jammers so far, but it's only logical that such devices are available for other technologies as well.

"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, and you have no idea you are causing them," Romano said.


I think this part is one of the major problems, when some 'kids' want to try out such a device and play with it.
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teribredlow

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Post Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:07 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

I am from USA and I am very outgoing and like to make friends with others. As long as I find something new, I will share with others, this time is without exception. I like to search the internet in my spare time very much. A few days ago, i found a very interesting product, Gps jammer , and there are various models and types of this product, so I bought one from the internet and it arrived very soon. It is really good and practical in my life.
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Mightygreen

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Post Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:25 am

Re: GPS Jammers Illegal, Dangerous, and Very Easy to Buy

What a surprise, an un-encrypted signal is vulnerable...actually it doesn't matter that is is un-encrypted, all signals can be jammed fairly easily. Nothing new, what would be more interesting is having those devices block the data from satellites and give their own locational data to the receivers...like the university professors experiment with the yacht recently.

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