Britain’s dependence on satellite navigation equipment makes the country dangerously at risk for intentional disruption of the signal, which could cripple day-to-day life, experts say.
A recently released report by the Royal Academy of Engineering urged the British government to reassess its vulnerability to Global Positioning System failures, deliberate or otherwise. The report stressed how easy it would be for cyber terrorists to jam signals, causing life-threatening collisions in airports, at sea, and on the road.
As it stands right now, Britain’s global positioning system has no backup, making the navigation network susceptible to hackers. Experts worry about the likelihood of a cyber attack on the satellite navigation, since a single terrorist armed with a few hundred pounds of jamming technology could wipe out emergency services, plane navigation, power plants, and civilian navigation with one click of the mouse.
Already, commercial jamming technology is for sale online for as low as £20. These sorts of devices are limited to temporarily disabling a navigational system in, say, a lorry driver’s GPS, which tells his boss where he’s been. But modifications to this technology and application to more widespread sat-nav systems could have dire effects.
“The UK is already dangerously dependent on GPS. GPS and other GNSS are so useful and so cheap to build into equipment that we have become almost blindly reliant on the data they give us,” warned Dr Martyn Thomas, the chairman of the academy’s GNSS working group.
The report recommended a range of actions to reduce the UK’s vulnerability before it is too late.