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Devices also stop navigation devices from working

Thousands of people are using GPS jammers to disguise the fact that they are driving stolen cars, or to hide the fact that they are driving commercial vehicles for dangerously long hours and the likely consequences are more serious than your GPS screen going blank mid ride, or losing out on a KOM on a Strava segment.

Those who know say jammers create a 500m 'bubble' around a vehicle when they are plugged into the cigarette lighter, and within that area GPS devices do not work, aeroplane safety technology could be affected, and tracking systems for stolen cars fail to transmit their location. Lorry and taxi drivers who are monitored to prevent them driving for illegally long hours can also use them to avoid detection, although the report doesn't make clear how as a GPS records location rather than time spent driving.

Despite all these risks, the devices are completely legal and are sold widely.

According to The Guardian, 'When engineers began monitoring 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 by some roads. That would translate to thousands of users around the country, given the amount of traffic on the road.'

Bob Cockshott, of the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network, said: "People are using these because they don't want to be detected. It's very easy to drown out the signal from a GPS satellite – which at ground level puts out as much power as a 20-watt lightbulb 12,000 miles away."

"When people use these, it creates a bubble around their vehicle for about 500 metres that jams any GPS receiver or transmitter," Prof Charles Curry of Chronos Technology told the Guardian. "It stops any tracking system the owner might have put on the car. Usually they will block GSM [mobile phone] signals too that might also be used to send back a location.

"It means that for anyone trying to track the vehicle, it just vanishes off the map – it's as though it were in an underground car park," Curry added.

Some Russian-built jammers used by the North Koreans are said to be capable of blocking signals for up to 100km and were used to block GPS traffic around two South Korean airports last year.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

28 comments

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David French [50 posts] 2 years ago
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Bloody annoying if one goes past when you're going for a KOM!

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bike_food [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Don't truck drivers still need to use a tachograph to record their hours so wouldn't be able to get away with driving more than permitted?

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El_Jimbo_Grande [11 posts] 2 years ago
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Correct. Tachos don't use GPS. They could/can be worked around with a carefully placed magnet, but VOSA are wise to this, and the penalties are truly eye-watering so it's not that common. Such an error in the reporting makes me wonder about the rest of the story.

But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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Russian jammers block signal for 100km? Really?? So if I fire one up in London everyone from Watford to Croydon just vanishes from the grid?

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Strathlubnaig [113 posts] 2 years ago
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Worse yet are the dastardly Chinese jammers, up to 500km, so folk in France will be screwed as well !!

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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How about these low flying planes as well eh, all it will take is for one 747 to fly 500 metres above one of these lorry driving menaces and who knows what will happen!

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SteppenHerring [322 posts] 2 years ago
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Tachographs are only compulsory for certain categories of vehicles operating over certain ranges. Drivers of, for instance, recovery vehicles operating within a 100km radius of their home base aren't covered.

The other reason professional drivers might be using these is that their employers track them through GPS devices in the vehicles. And at that point I can't really elaborate for professional reasons.

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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Insurance wangling, GPS tracker lowers premiums.

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a.jumper [845 posts] 2 years ago
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Please tell me the insurers look for positive GPS traces and aren't fooled by this or any other GPS failure!

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Tony Farrelly [2856 posts] 2 years ago
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El_Jimbo_Grande wrote:

Correct. Tachos don't use GPS. They could/can be worked around with a carefully placed magnet, but VOSA are wise to this, and the penalties are truly eye-watering so it's not that common. Such an error in the reporting makes me wonder about the rest of the story.

But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Actually, the latest digital tachos do come with inbuilt GPS as an added extra for the operator who wants to track their driver's movements. Here's one
http://www.tachosys.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40&...

I wonder if a digital tachograph that uses a GPS as it's motion sensor would register no movement if the GPS signal was blocked - surely they'd be more sophisticated than that?

One thing is for sure plenty of people seem to be buying these things and as there seems to be no good reason to use one the must be using them for bad ones.

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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a.jumper wrote:

Please tell me the insurers look for positive GPS traces and aren't fooled by this or any other GPS failure!

"Nah guv, it's been parked underground for the past 4 months!"  4

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racyrich [235 posts] 2 years ago
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Mobile phone blockers generally also block GPS. Hours of fun in the quiet coach of my commuter train. All the stupid self-important people who just can't restrain themselves for 30 minutes, suddenly cut off  1

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

Mobile phone blockers generally also block GPS. Hours of fun in the quiet coach of my commuter train. All the stupid self-important people who just can't restrain themselves for 30 minutes, suddenly cut off  1

You should have sold that idea! Though don't remember too many ott calls. Besides people talk between themselves in the quiet coaches so a bit hypocritical to pick on phones in general.

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Saratoga [32 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Despite all these risks, the devices are completely legal and are sold widely.

No, jammers are illegal to use in the UK (radio, GPS, mobile phone, etc).

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jackh [119 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

No, jammers are illegal to use in the UK (radio, GPS, mobile phone, etc).

Perhaps it is legal to sell the devices but not to actually use them?

GPS and mobile phones operate on licensed spectrum bands, any broadcasts of any power on these bands is illegal by definition. I think OFCOM has responsibility for this.

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qwerky [184 posts] 2 years ago
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Despite all these risks, the devices are completely legal and are sold widely.
It is an offence only under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to "knowingly use" such a device to block GPS signals

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themartincox [466 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

Mobile phone blockers generally also block GPS. Hours of fun in the quiet coach of my commuter train. All the stupid self-important people who just can't restrain themselves for 30 minutes, suddenly cut off  1

yup, defo illegal! all kinds of potential issues can crop up there

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thereverent [386 posts] 2 years ago
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On the legality of Jammers from Ofcom:

Jammers are devices which are intended to prevent radio equipment from receiving and transmitting the signals relevant to their function. Use of such devices therefore constitutes the specific offence of causing interference.
Legality of wireless telegraphy equipment
Section 8 of the 2006 Act forbids the installation or use of wireless telegraphy equipment (radio) in the UK mainland Northern Ireland and territorial waters, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, unless an appropriate licence has been obtained from Ofcom, or there are Regulations in force exempting it from the licensing requirements.

and

Jammers are also subject to the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive (EMC) Directive EC89/336 as amended, which has been implemented into UK law by the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2006 (Sl 2006/3418). These regulations specify that all electrical and electronic apparatus placed on the market or taken into service in the UK, including imports, satisfy specific requirements to ensure that they do not cause excessive electromagnetic interference or are adversely affected by it and have to carry the CE mark to show compliance. The European Commission supports Members States’ views that since jammers by their nature cause significant electromagnetic interference it is likely that most do not comply with the UK regulations and therefore they cannot be legally placed on the UK market. The maximum penalty for supplying non-compliant equipment under the regulations is a fine of up to £5,000. The courts can order forfeiture of stocks of equipment. Ofcom will take appropriate enforcement action, including prosecution, to enforce the above legal provisions.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/spectrum-enforcement/jammers/

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Tony Farrelly [2856 posts] 2 years ago
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The point abut jammers, as it says in the story, is that while it is illegal to use them, and sell them in the UK - it is not illegal to buy them, and if you are buying over the internet the vendor is very likely to be from somewhere that the EU's writ doesn't run.

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sidesaddle [77 posts] 2 years ago
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Wondering if these things could stop drone aircraft?

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qwerky [184 posts] 2 years ago
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In fact its possible to take over control;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18643134
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/21/spy_drone_hijack_gps_spoofing_im...

2nd one is claimed by Iran, but refuted my many.

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KiwiMike [1073 posts] 2 years ago
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In Australia, where mobile and GPS signal is often a matter of life or death, importing, selling or operating a jammer can and has got people ~$250k fines and / or 5 years inside. They don't fsck around with this sort of thing, neither should the UK govt.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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a.jumper wrote:

Please tell me the insurers look for positive GPS traces and aren't fooled by this or any other GPS failure!

Would a tarcker constantly send a signal out

My thoughts would be that people get insurance with a tracker which restricts them going out or charges them a premium rate at certain times. So they drive home and switch the car off the vehicle is tracked as on their driveway. The jammer is turned on, car started and off they drive.

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Al__S [957 posts] 2 years ago
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a tracker would only transmit a signal if it has some way of broadcasting, and it would typically use a mobile phone signal to do so (GPS is after all a one way system).

But even if a tracker system relied on periodic downloads, you'd hope suspicious blank patches would be noticed! Especially on commercial vehicles that are known to be in use.

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hairyairey [296 posts] 2 years ago
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With my amateur radio hat on, I can confirm that any kind of radio jammer has been illegal since the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act. Seems to me that Ofcom and the Police should be cracking down on this. This amount of radio noise could be fatal near an airport or life support equipment.

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ch [168 posts] 2 years ago
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Blatant flouting of the law.
http://www.jammer4uk.com/car-gps-jammer-c-1.html
They even sell one disguised as a packet of Marlboro.
There seem to be loads of sites like this.
Could it be internet enforcement is lagging behind?

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graham [17 posts] 2 years ago
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First - internet enforcement does exist... In places like the UK.

GPS and radar jammers are penalised especially hard in Oz, the same country that has one of the highest rates of 'discreet' 'traffic monitoring' - sure, speeding is a bad thing, but some states will fine a driver for being 3km/h over a 60+ limit, and hide the cameras in roadside wheelie bins, traffic cones, and so on. It really is a massive revenue stream.

Many people will buy something like a GPS jammer simply because they don't like the 'Big Brother' approach. Sure, if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Headlines like this do sensationalise the issues, but there is sometimes a grain of truth in the scaremongering.

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Sven Ellis [32 posts] 2 years ago
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"Lorry and taxi drivers who are monitored to prevent them driving for illegally long hours can also use them to avoid detection"

As far as I'm aware, taxi drivers aren't subject to any working hours regulations. (Yawns, rubs eyes)