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Jammers pose bigger risk than Sun flares

Jammers pose bigger risk than Sun flares Image

For years it was thought that the Sun's extreme solar flare activity posed the biggest threat to UK signals.

Now it has been discovered that the worst culprits are GPS jammers, available online for as little as £30.

Our roads and skies are being made a more dangerous place by motorists using these devices.

Thousands of people in the UK are plugging the jammers into car cigarette lighters to block tracking systems used to detect stolen cars, monitor vehicle use or stop drivers working over-long hours.

This means that over-tired lorry or taxi drivers could dangerously stay on the road. Air safety could be compromised if vehicles armed with jammers go to airport areas near aircraft which rely on GPS (global positioning system) for navigation.

The increased use of these gadgets could also stymie any plans to introduce toll roads.

The findings were presented in a study by researchers at GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) Vulnerabilities 2013: Countering The Threat, at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, London, this week.

Yet, despite the huge dangers posed by these devices, it is not illegal to import, sell, buy or own one. It is only an offence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to 'knowingly use' such a gadget to obstruct GPS signals.

Chronos Technology's Professor Charles Curry said the GPS jammers meant that their vehicles just vanish off the map - as if they were in an underground car park - making them invisible to anyone trying to track them.

Prof Curry added: "When people use these, it creates a bubble around their vehicle for about 500 metres that jams any GPS receiver or transmitter.

"It may be truck drivers making deliveries outside hours, or taxi drivers who are working for a firm and want to keep all the payments for themselves rather than splitting it with the cab owner."

The jamming explosion was discovered after engineers monitored traffic on a dual carriageway outside London and compared it with traffic on roads inside the City of London.

They discovered regular use of jammers, with 10 incidents per day on some roads. This was the equivalent of thousands of users around the country pro rata, given the amount of traffic on the road.

Now communications regulator Ofcom is seeking to tighten some of these loopholes.

published: 13/02/2013 17:00:00

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