Thousands using GPS jammers to disguise over-long hours or stolen cars

Devices also stop navigation devices from working

by Sarah Barth   February 17, 2013  

road.cc news

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.

28 user comments

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Bloody annoying if one goes past when you're going for a KOM!

posted by David French [49 posts]
17th February 2013 - 17:06

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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?

posted by bike_food [93 posts]
17th February 2013 - 17:08

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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!

posted by El_Jimbo_Grande [11 posts]
17th February 2013 - 18:01

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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?

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
17th February 2013 - 19:32

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Worse yet are the dastardly Chinese jammers, up to 500km, so folk in France will be screwed as well !!

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [114 posts]
17th February 2013 - 19:38

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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!

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
17th February 2013 - 19:43

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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.

posted by SteppenHerring [177 posts]
17th February 2013 - 20:06

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Insurance wangling, GPS tracker lowers premiums.

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
17th February 2013 - 20:51

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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!

posted by a.jumper [694 posts]
17th February 2013 - 21:12

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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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posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
17th February 2013 - 22:43

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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!" Big Grin

posted by Nick T [788 posts]
17th February 2013 - 23:09

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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 Smile

posted by racyrich [117 posts]
17th February 2013 - 23:14

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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 Smile

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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posted by koko56 [317 posts]
18th February 2013 - 8:29

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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).

posted by Saratoga [15 posts]
18th February 2013 - 10:03

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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.

posted by jackh [105 posts]
18th February 2013 - 10:33

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

Definitely illegal, the law is very wide ranging for this. Interfering with the operation of any electronic device in any way is prohibited. In fact the article in the Guardian clearly states;


It is an offence only under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to "knowingly use" such a device to block GPS signals

posted by qwerky [133 posts]
18th February 2013 - 10:40

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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 Smile

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

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posted by themartincox [330 posts]
18th February 2013 - 11:06

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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/

posted by thereverent [298 posts]
18th February 2013 - 11:29

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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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posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
18th February 2013 - 11:35

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Wondering if these things could stop drone aircraft?

posted by sidesaddle [68 posts]
18th February 2013 - 11:38

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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.

posted by qwerky [133 posts]
18th February 2013 - 11:58

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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.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [473 posts]
18th February 2013 - 12:15

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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.

posted by farrell [1394 posts]
18th February 2013 - 12:40

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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.

posted by Al__S [519 posts]
18th February 2013 - 12:57

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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.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [279 posts]
18th February 2013 - 14:07

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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?

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [100 posts]
18th February 2013 - 18:50

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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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posted by graham [15 posts]
18th February 2013 - 21:59

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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)

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posted by Sven Ellis [31 posts]
20th February 2013 - 12:42

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