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article imageShips ditch GPS for eLoran navigation system because of hacking

By Karen Graham     Aug 7, 2017 in Technology
South Korea, the U.K., U.S., and Russia are dusting off WWII eloran radio technology for use as a backup system for ship navigation because GPS systems are increasingly being jammed by hackers.
Almost 90 percent of the world's trade is transported by sea and GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) that rely on satellites sending and receiving signals have become the mainstay of navigation systems.
The stakes have become high in the world's crowded shipping lanes, and unlike aircraft, if a ship's navigation system goes down, they have nothing to use as a backup, running the risk of colliding with other vessels or running aground.
Electronics Weekly notes that South Korea is seeing increased instances of GPS interference from North Korea, aimed at their fishing fleets. And there have been over 20 reports of interference with shipping in the Black Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard is also reporting an increase in GPS interference.
An antenna for a satellite based GPS system at The Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) in...
An antenna for a satellite based GPS system at The Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) in Kathmandu on July 24, 2015
Prakash Mathema, AFP
The eLoran system is a greatly enhanced version of the old Loran (Long Range Navigation) system developed by the U.S. during World War II. GPS signals are weak and can be jammed easily with cheap equipment. However, to jam eLoran signals, which are 1.3 million times stronger, a powerful transmitter with a large antenna would be needed.
Lee Byeong-gon, an official at South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, told Reuters that the government is working on three eLoran test sites by 2019, but they have already run into opposition from locals in one community angry over the unsightly "122 to 137 meter-high (400 to 450 feet-high) antenna” antenna close to their homes.
Besides the questionable aesthetics of large eLoran transmitters, there is the cost involved in building a large network around the globe. This reason, alone, has dissuaded many governments, particularly in Europe, from investing in the technology. However, this could all change because other core infrastructures are now at risk.
LORAN Station Malone  Florida: View of middle section of transmitter banks.
LORAN Station Malone, Florida: View of middle section of transmitter banks.
The U.K.'s rail network has been the victim of several cyber attacks in the last few years. Following a report in 2016 about security breaches to the railways, Sergey Gordeychik – a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow said if hackers were to get control of railway signaling systems, they could “create a real disaster."
Brad Parkinson, the U.S. engineer known as the "father of GPS" and its chief developer, says he supports the move to develop eLoran as a backup navigation system. "ELoran is only two-dimensional, regional, and not as accurate, but it offers a powerful signal at an entirely different frequency," Parkinson told Reuters.
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