GPS has become a universally understood acronym. Who needs maps? The nice lady's voice (of course you get naughty voices of any gender too) will tell you how to get around D.C. whether you're walking or driving. GPS devices help pilots navigate the increasingly crowded skies.
We take our GPS satellites for granted in everyday life so it is a little disconcerting to learn that signals can be hacked or jammed (hat tip to good friend Ben Kerschberg for giving us something else to worry about).
I was aware that researchers at Texas University had hijacked a drone by feeding it spoofed GPS coordinates and that was worrisome enough. But an article on Mashable was much more disconcerting. GPS signals are unencrypted - an easy mark for hackers. And GPS jammers can disrupt GPS signals. Jammers can take out signals for several miles (this would not be helpful around airports!).
Jammers are illegal, but also cheap and readily available outside the U.S. and are easily shipped to the United States. Defense contractor ITT Exelis believes that its new technology, called GPS Interference, Detection and Geolocation (IDG) will be able to detect one or multiple sources of interference and pinpoint the location so authorities could quickly neutralize their effect.
Note, however, that this suggests reaction - not prevention. It might be a deterrent to know that using technology to interfere with GPS signals could land you in jail. But the true crazies, diehard criminals and morally bereft terrorists are hardly likely to be deterred.
There has already been a halfway comical incident in Newark. A truck driver who apparently had reasons for not wishing his employer to track him, had a jammer in his truck. Every time he passed the airport, the GPS went down. It took two months to solve the mysterious outages.
I may have to start restocking my car with maps - just in case.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 703-359-0700