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The facts about

Jamming and Stolen Vehicle Recovery

• Any radio based system is susceptible to attack through jamming but

GPS and GSM are particularly vulnerable
• Blocking the GPS / GSM receiver will potentially render a vehicle un-
• Both GPS and GSM jammers are commonly available despite attempts
by OfCom to limit their sale. This is not the case for other technologies
• Jamming GSM:
– Stops any communication with the service provider (although
locations may still be stored in the unit)
– Prevents an approximate location being obtained from the cell site
• Jamming GPS:
– Prevents an accurate location being obtained - permanently
• Given the extremely low power levels utilised by GPS, this is the easiest
technology of all to defeat
GPS Jamming

• Low-level jamming can completely block satellite signal

or induce position errors.

• An airborne 10 Watt battery-powered jammer can cover

hundreds of square miles and cost only £40 in parts

• Something much less powerful will prevent car-based

systems from operating

• Jammers can be built by people with basic technical

competence from readily available commercial
components and publicly available information

• GPS Repeaters make excellent jamming devices

• Jammers are readily available from numerous sources

GPS Facts

• 31 active satellites orbiting at 11,000 miles

• Fully operational in 1995
• Signal strength is 0.0000000000000001 Watts at the receiver – the
equivalent of viewing a 25W light bulb in Los Angeles from London
• Signals from at least 4 satellites are needed to determine an
accurate position (latitude, longitude, altitude).
• Selective Access (S/A) - the Defense Department originally
reduced position accuracy to 100m for Civilian applications
• S/A was turned off in May 2000 and could be reactivated at any
time by the Pentagon
• There is some doubt regarding the reliability of the GPS satellite
network going forward
Approaches Used to Defeat Commercial GPS
• Blocking: Damage antenna, or shield it
with metal

• Jamming: Easy to build or buy. complete

information is on the Internet)

• Spoofing: Generate fake satellite signals

(and therefore fake location
Examples of Portable GPS Simulators & Repeaters
Examples of Portable GPS/GSM Jammers
– Available Now!

£35 £70 £215 £59 £97


GPS Issues in SVR Applications

• Reduced number of installation solutions

over competing technologies
• Effect of screening by metalwork
• Limited view of the sky
– Delays satellite acquisition
– Reduces location accuracy
• Makes covert installations problematic
• Antenna orientation problems
• Exacerbates Urban Canyoning effect
Jamming - GPS Vs VHF


Jammers Commercially Available Ubiquitous None Known
Published Designs for DIY Devices Yes None Known
Jamming Signal Required Microwatts Tens of Watts
Jamming Signal Subject to Tracking by No Yes
Susceptible to ‘Spoofing’ Yes No
GPS – Future Vulnerability

“Signal strength will increase,

but there will be no encryption
or authentication of the civilian
GPS signal until at least 2018, if

Source – Los Alamos National Laboratory – Vulnerability Assessment Team


• Although GPS/GSM systems have their part to play, there is

over-reliance on this technology for Stolen Vehicle Recovery and
other security applications
• Current UK standards (Cat 5, TQA etc.) do not recognise the
impact of GPS & GSM vulnerability and the increasing
availability of jamming devices
• There is growing recognition by the general public and Police of
GPS/GSM vulnerability
• The TRACKER / LoJack VHF and other terrestrial systems are
far less susceptible to this form of attack and jamming devices
are not readily available
• The best approach is a multi-platform solution that provides
multiple means of location and communication. Such a system
will be far more difficult to defeat using jamming techniques and
would require the use of multiple counter-measures. TRACKER
Locate will be launched in September 2009 to specifically meet
this need.
The Academic Viewpoint………

“Civilian GPS was not designed, and was never

intended, for security applications. If you are
relying on GPS cargo tracking systems for high
level security, you should be aware they are
vulnerable to a number of different kinds of
attacks, including blocking, jamming, spoofing,
and physical attacks. Relatively unsophisticated
adversaries can successfully execute all of these

Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D., CPP & Jon S. Warner, Ph.D.

Vulnerability Assessment Team Los Alamos National Laboratory September