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Detect GPS and signal jammers: What fleet managers need to know

By Verizon Connect July 6, 2023

Commercial fleet owners and operators have seen the industry shift toward integration of technology across every system. Widespread adoption of automated fleet management and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tracking solutions has helped companies streamline operations, improve driver safety and improve adherence to compliance regulations. However, devices known as GPS jammers and cell phone jammers can interfere with the function of the GPS tracking devices that are critical to real-time fleet vehicle tracking systems, and present issues for fleet owners trying to maintain fleet tracking and control. 

Though the use of GPS jammers is illegal, and not common in the United States, they can still cause issues and risks for those in the transportation industry. 

What is a GPS Jammer?

GPS signal jammers are small, high power radio frequency (RF signal) transmitters that interfere with lawful communications devices—cell phones, GPS, Wi-Fi networks and also toll readers.

GPS receivers rely on low power microwave signals broadcast from GPS satellites. Signal jammers operate by overwhelming these satellite signals with higher power, but shorter range, radio signals, to create “noise” that tricks GPS tracking systems into thinking GPS signals are not available.  This is also referred to as "spoofing".

What do GPS jammers look like?

Since devices that can block GPS come from a number of manufacturers, they vary greatly in shape, size and dimensions, making them hard to spot within a driver’s vehicle. Most commonly, GPS blockers work over short range, and are small enough to plug into a power supply like a cigarette lighter or iPhone and block the signal to a GPS tracker installed within the vehicle cockpit. 

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Are GPS tracking jammers illegal?

Yes, GPS jammers are illegal in the United States and Canada. The FCC carefully regulates radio communication devices and has taken action in the past where signal jamming devices have been used or known to be sold. Despite this, GPS jammers and signal blockers can be easily ordered online.

GPS Jammers increase security risks

Some may see GPS jammers as a means for drivers (and companies) to sidestep telematics mandates and measures in order to gain a competitive edge, or because of concerns over personal privacy. But any fleet vehicle that uses anti-tracking devices risks introducing insecure hardware into a vehicle and allowing hackers to gain access to the onboard telematics systems and tamper with GPS systems like navigation, positioning and more. GPS jamming devices also pose a significant risk to public safety and security. 

In addition, in the event a vehicle is stolen, GPS jammers make it more difficult for law enforcement to locate the vehicle, impacting a company’s scheduling lineup and, possibly, its bottom line should the missing vehicle not be found. That’s why fleet owners should pay careful attention to any modifications that drivers make to their vehicles. 

The impact of GPS jammers on fleets 

For fleet managers, it’s important to be able to monitor driver behavior and vehicle health in order to support fleet safety and streamline costs. GPS jammers prevent accurate vehicle tracking, including distance traveled, time on the road, speeding occurrences and harsh driving instances. The inability to accurately measure this type of data can result in compliance audits, fines, and situations where vehicles aren’t properly maintained—ultimately impacting revenue and safety.

Mitigating the use of GPS jammers

Fleet owners and managers need to understand the capabilities of their existing GPS tracking devices and navigation systems in order to recognize if and when a device is being potentially hampered by a GPS jammer. Monitoring Non Reporting Unit (NRU) trends can help to identify potential issues with GPS trackers installed within vehicles. It’s also important to have an understanding of network weaknesses, exposures and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.  

In addition, keeping a regular schedule of IT network maintenance and troubleshooting to offset the possibility of data tampering can go a long way toward preventing future issues. Finally, clearly communicating with employees the company’s vehicle usage policies, and policies around prohibited devices like GPS jammers, can help discourage use of such devices in the first place. 

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Vehicle & asset security, Cybersecurity, Data & Analytics

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