GPS Tracking Jammers: Problems and Uses

by Joe Mueller on February 25, 2010

Update 4/16/2012:  GPS jammers are illegal and should not be used.  After several events in recent years the US government has really began to crack down on GPS jammers since they pose a significant risk to public safety and  national infrastructure.  Consumers should not buy these devices unless they are approved by the FCC.  Any jammer in use should be retired and an alternative method to ensure location privacy should be employed since penalties for jammer use could exceed $100,000 and include jail time.

To anyone familiar with GPS technology, it is no surprise that GPS tracking jammers can cause all sorts of havoc to tracking systems irregardless of their use. Anti-theft devices, fleet tracking systems, personal navigation devices, and airline navigation systems will all fall victim to small, low power GPS blockers. That is just the nature of the whole tracking system.

Because of this inherent flaw, there are some good uses for GPS tracking blockers, but there are also some rather nefarious uses as well. But before we get into all that, let’s first see how and why tracking systems can be so easily tampered with.

Why GPS Is So Easy To Block

When you rely on satellites that are thousands of miles away (around 12,500 miles to be exact) it becomes very easy to interfere with the signals that the satellites emit. Bob Cockshott, a conference speaker and leader of a government funded technology program in the UK, puts it this way, “The problem is that the signal from the satellites is extremely weak – it’s the equivalent of picking up the light output of a 25-watt bulb on the satellite.” The problem seems to be that the signal from the satellites are so weak that disrupting them would be as easy as preventing someone from seeing a 25-watt light bulb from thousands of miles away.

In other words, the task is a simple one. There are GPS tracking blockers that can be powered by the cigarette lighter in a car that have enough power the not only jam the tracking or navigation in your car but also of a car that is very close to you. According to Wired Magazine, 2 watts of power is enough to disable a car-based GPS device while a blocker powered at 20 watts will be enough to cover the area of an entire airport. In other words, that is not very much effort to bring down a very large amount of GPS relates systems.

The Problem With GPS Tracking Jammers

The potential abuse of this flaw in the system could be used for purposes that do not have the greater good of humanity in mind. While it would be best if no one every took advantage of the flaws in the GPS tracking infrastructure, it is already happening on some level all over the world. Here are some of the more common instances:

Car Theft

Car Theft Gone Wrong

When GPS tracking for cars is installed in a vehicle it can be a very formidable way for the police to catch criminals and drastically reduce auto theft. But when a GPS tracking jammer is also installed in the car as it is being stolen, the criminal is able to get away without anyone knowing that the vehicle has been stolen. The owner won’t get an alert letting them know that their vehicle has left their geofence. Even when they wake up to find their car missing, they will not be able to track it because the jammer will have essentially taken the vehicle off the grid in terms of the person’s tracking capabilities.

High Jacking

Another serious concern is the use of GPS blockers by organized crime to boost cargo carriers without being able to be tracked. Most fleets have some sort of GPS monitoring system installed in their vehicles in order to help with fleet administration and improve customer service. These systems also help companies recover stolen vehicles.

But if criminals are using blockers, then no amount of fleet tracking capability is going to help the company figure out where its vehicle is. It will also prevent the police from quickly tracking down the stolen vehicle. The goods will be stolen and that will probably be the end of it.

Attacks Against Humanity

If someone was sick enough, they could also do serious damage to the infrastructure of various public and private services, causing widespread destruction and mayhem. I won’t go into to much detail about this point for fear of somehow encouraging evil, but there are serious risks for certain systems that only use GPS for timing and routing information.

The (Legal) Uses of GPS Tracking Jammers

Despite the many different negative uses of a jammer, there are also some very useful applications for this technology. It is important to note that all technology is essentially amoral. It is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Instead, it is the use of the technology that is either good or bad. This is no different for GPS tracking in general or for GPS tracking blockers specifically.

One of the common themes that you will find below is that the best uses for a GPS jammer is to combat an improper use of a GPS tracker. But this should be expected given the nature of what a jammer/blocker is!

Stop Stalkers

Ninja Stalker Stalking

If you are being stalked by someone who is using GPS to do so you should feel completely within your “rights” to purchase a jamming device and install it in your car. No one should be able to find out exactly where you are so that they can watch your every move so that they can plan some sort of wickedness against your person. Such violations should be blocked. If you are particularly paranoid, think about getting a blocker to place inside your car in addition to occasionally searching the wheel wells of your car.

Escape Illegal Government Tracking

You might be surprised how often a government official has secretly and illegally placed a tracking device on your vehicle. For example, there is currently a case going on right now in Louisiana where police illegally installed a GPS tracking device for a friend. The victim did not buy a jammer, but if he did he would have been able to put an immediate nix on the illegal activity until he eventually found the tracking device. Now I don’t want to imply that there is a great government conspiracy going on where the government is in the business of tracking private citizens without warrant or reason, because I just don’t think that this is the case. But there is some truth to government employees abusing their powers and using GPS tracking for their own ends. This type of thing should be blocked by using GPS tracking jammers.

Prank our Friends

Sometimes there is nothing quite like a good laugh, especially when it is at the expense of a good friend in good fun. To pull off this prank successfully, all you need to do is install a GPS jammer in their car while you travel with them to a destination using GPS navigation to get there. Be sure that you look up how to get to the place and commit them to memory. Then make your friend a bet the you can given them better directions than their GPS can. Make it a big bet, like $100 or more. Once they agree, just turn on your jammer and direct them to your destination like their GPS would have if you weren’t blocking it. When they get ready to pay you for your knowledge, reveal the prank and have a great laugh.

GPS Jammer and Blockers In Review

It is clear that these devices are amoral in nature, but that they can be used for both great evil and great good. Some governments, like that in England, have decided to make them illegal to sell or use. While this may help cut down the trafficking of these device, it will not ultimately end their use – especially by the criminal element. But I guess that is the English way. I hope America keeps GPS tracking jammers legal, but just educates the public about their proper use.

Sources:Wired, Guardian

Image Sources: Alan Vernon, mikemol

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