Relying on GPS: which way is the washroom?

The Royal Academy of Engineering yesterday released a report on Global Navigation Space Systems: reliance and vulnerabilities as reported by Sophie Curtis in eWeek Europe in an article on Britain’s GPS Reliance Could Lead To ‘Loss Of Life’ (who quoted me, by the way, on what could happen in the event of a criminal attack). Well, it's not an entirely hypothetical issue: there are a number of scenarios where jammers are used to disrupt signals for criminal purposes, and there's no absolute reason why the approach couldn't be used for a more dramatic 21st century Italian Job (I think I feel a movie script coming on).

Why, apart from the vehicle larceny that already happens, would you (or a criminal version of you) do something like this? Well, one obvious possibility is to disrupt logistics. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of ways in which a victim might, with a combination of a satnav deadspot and physical interference, might be herded into a vulnerable location, or law enforcement might be diverted from an active crime scene. It’s a common plot device, of course, but our increasing dependence on the technology – for instance, as a frequent traveller, I can’t help but notice how many taxi drivers now rely on GPS, and in some cases are apparently contractually obliged to use it – does make it more viable.

There is also potential for disrupting forensic investigations that rely on post-incident tracking of a vehicle’s movements, for example, and for impeding certain kinds of electronic surveillance.

I notice that Richi Jennings has also been considering this report in an article called Are you over-reliant on GPS? What if it fails?

ESET Senior Research Fellow

Author David Harley, ESET

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