Sunday, March 14, 2010

Interesting blip re: GPS jammers

Most of the motorcycle theft stories I track involve simple brute force attacks - i.e. two guys in a van, manhandling a bike into the back, and maybe a third guy with a pair of cutters to take care of any locks. More often than not people are jacking bikes with sheer brute force.

With the rise in active tracking systems for motorcycles, though, I noted this story with great interest:

Car Thieves Using GPS 'Jammers'
From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/feb/22/car-thieves-using-gps-jammers

Criminal gangs have begun using GPS "jammers" imported from China to help them steal expensive cars and lorries carrying valuable loads – and there are fears that terrorists could use more powerful versions to disrupt air traffic, a conference in London will hear on Tuesday. The "jammers" put out radio signals at the same frequency at the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, overwhelming the timing signal that in-car devices use to plot their position. That means a tracker device built into a lorry with a valuable load, or a car with an anti-theft GPS device which should report its position if stolen, cannot distinguish the correct GPS signal...
Such systems have been found in the hands of criminals arrested by police over the past 18 months, said Cockshott. The jammers could be built by a competent electronics expert, though the gangs appear to prefer to import them from Chinese makers in Shenzhen.

Sure enough, a two second search over on Alibaba shows dozens of these things available - mobile versions are going for about $30-50 a pop. Product specs show options for blockage ranging from a few meters to 1000mw long range versions that can supposedly block everything up to 30 meters.

This is not good, because it won't be long before this migrates over to motorcycle theft, too.

Wired magazine covered this story as well, and is quick to note that RF-based trackers (Like LoJack) aren't affected by these GPS jammers, but one can guess that RF frequencies are next on the hitlist.

There's a couple of demos over on youtube, natch:

This is the stolenmotorcycleregistry.com blog!

Hello everybody, this is the blog for stolenmotorcycleregistry.com - a free resource to register and track stolen motorcycles. Stolenmotorcycleregistry.com is run by tech-savvy people who love their bikes and hate the people who steal them, and we're always working towards building a better set of tools to help combat the bike theft problem.

I'm very interested in the way new technologies and products can help combat motorcycle theft - and I'm always bookmarking or emailing people about new items or methods to thwart theft and motorcycle security attacks. This blog will track these news items, along with some of my ideas and commentary on how the internet and social media technologies can help combat the problem.

Stolenmotorcycleregistry.com - if you are wondering - provides a number of free online tools to track, list, and search for stolen bikes. People who have had their motorcycles stolen can list their stolen bike info (and photos) for free, and the data is open to the public and anyone who wants to help search for and recover stolen motorcycles. I created this website as a free way to combat the ever-growing problem of motorcycle theft, and it has grown and evolved along with some other similar websites that I run.

I'm always on the lookout for other people working on the same problem, so if you're interested in this too, please drop me a line.