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Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: Ocean Cargo Ships Increasingly at Risk Due to GPS Interference


Governments, Military and Criminals Jamming and Faking Real GPS Signals


Feb. 20, 2020


Did you know that ocean cargo, tanker and container ships were increasingly at risk due to meddling with the GPD signals such ships are increasingly reliant on?

Neither did we, until a recent article in Fortune magazine.

It turns out the global shipping industry is heavily dependent on GPS to navigate, especially in dangerous waters. Ships have become bigger, faster, and more automated, while crews have shrunk, while skills and tool to navigate without GPS fade.

And a variety of players are messing with GPS signals.

"The expanding interference has exposed vulnerabilities for GPS and for the ocean-going shippers who depend on it," the Fortune article notes.

As shown in the graphic below, there are two threats: GPS "jamming" and "spoofing."


Source: Fortune


And while governments play a major role here, Fortune says criminals and others are increasingly involved – in part because it is becoming easy and cheap to employ either technique to disrurpt GPS.

Off-the-shelf jammers, though illegal in the US and many other countries, are easy to find online for as little as $20, with prices rising as their range increases.

"Drug-smuggling networks use jammers to mask their activities; illegal fishing operations use them to obscure where they got their catch. And thieves who steal shipping containers deploy jammers to block the trackers hidden inside them," Fortune says.

And that means ships can suddenly be without GPS coverage, or be receiving false signals – and that increasingly puts cargo and crew in real danger of an accident.


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