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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GPS Jammers Provide Convenience to Car Thieves

People always respect that tech is used to fight crime, but the opposite is that the bad guys only to get better gears. The sole crime-fighter who manages to always have the better gadgets is Batman. Now car thieves are using cell phone gps jammerto jam the satellite signals so that some antitheft services used to locate stolen automobiles are cease to be effective.

It’s not hard to do, either. A quick Google Shopping search for GPS blockers shows models on sale for under $30. They don’t even need to be powerful. In order to swamp the incoming satellite signals, a jammer only needs to put out two watts of power. Speaking at a symposium, Bob Cockshott of “cybersecurity” company Digital Systems KTN said that “the strength of a GPS signal is about as strong as viewing a 25-watt light bulb from a satellite 10,000 miles away.”

It’s not just criminals who are using this tech, either. Employees whose cars are tracked by their companies use them to go off the clock, and according to The Guardian, German truck drivers use them to “to evade GPS-based road charging.”

But knocking off gas-guzzling cars and sticking it to the man are just the annoying part of the potential for GPS jammers. A 20-watt unit would be enough to cover a commercial airport, with rather scary results.

There is also the possibility of feeding false signals to a GPS unit, which would be harder for an operator to spot than straight-up jamming. If you start doing that to boats driven by sailors with no sextant experience, you get havoc.

Still, something good could come of this. It’s possible that people read the story could become not as much as they trust their in-car sat-nav units and actually look through the windshield once in a while. This would reduce the possibility of the estimated 300,000 crashes caused in Britain every year by people who over trust their GPS.

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