Tracking down GPS jammers
Use of GPS jammers, or any wireless jammer, in US is illegal according to the FCC. The Federal Communication Act of 1934, amended, prevents the operation of wireless, including GPS, jamming devices. Employers may wish to download and share the FCC document along with company policy on the use of GPS jammers or any attempt to interfere with the Company’s policy of monitoring employee activity to further productivity, safety and accountability.
“Signal jammers operate by transmitting radio signals that overpower, jam, or interfere with authorized communications. While these devices have been marketed with increasing frequency over the Internet, with limited exception, they have no lawful use in the United States. Jammers are not only designed to impede authorized communications and thereby interfere with the rights of legitimate spectrum users and the general public, they are also inherently unsafe.” –FCC
GPS jammers come in a variety of sizes and configurations. The design you are mostly likely to encounter as a fleet operator is one that contains 1-3 antennas and plugs into the cigarette lighter adaptor. These are easily concealed and inserted only when a driver wants to go “dark”. Employees have been tampering with GPS technology since its introduction in 1990. A game of cat and mouse has been played since then between GPS engineers and employees. In most organizations, employees will inform co-workers about their ability to “beat the system” which leads to an increased use of GPS jammers in a branch, region or company.
So how can you tell if someone is using a GPS jammer? It is not easy. You are looking at the absence of information to make a determination. Many employers blame it on the GPS device, faulty cellular service or a dead zone for GPS signals. Proving something based on the lack of information is far more difficult that reviewing recorded data. Since most employers don’t understand wireless technology, they feel these excuses fall in the realm of possibility so they blame the GPS tracking device.
A GPS jammer is going to result in the random loss of GPS data. In most situations it is not going to happen in a pattern at a specific time, on a specific day. Employees use jammers based on when they need to do things on company time like meet a friend for lunch, run an errand, pick up the kids from school or go home early. These behaviours are generally random which can also be a clue.
Another clue is to see similar GPS tracking behaviour in a business unit such as a branch. As the drivers brag about “beating the system”, others will mimic the behaviour and you will see an increase in random loss of GPS track data over time and among vehicles. Perhaps the best indicator of a GPS jammer is through the analysis of engine diagnostics data.
GPS tracking and fleet management system, such as the GPSWOX system, provide detailed insight into the vehicle’s computer system. This allows you to compare many sources of data which can show miles accumulated, RPMs where going up and down, fuel tank levels were decreasing, and more. All of these things individually would not solve the mystery, but together they create enough circumstantial evidence to warrant action.
What do you do if you suspect GPS jammers are being utilized? First confirm the device is working correctly. Second, it is important to make a big deal about the issue and make a clear example by enforcing your company policy. If you can prove it, contact State or Federal law enforcement and let them handle it. It is no different than finding cocaine in a vehicle; both are crimes. News of an employee under Federal investigation is certainly going to spread very quickly. This quick and decisive action sets the tone for your organization. You will however need proof to generate law enforcement interested; just missing some GPS track data is not going to be enough.
Another step is to conduct random vehicle inspections. People tend to get complacent, and you can use this to your advantage. When employees come to the office or gather for an event, walk the parking lot and look in the windows. You could also take the spare keys and look through the vehicles to be sure they are being properly maintained, safe, and clean. At the same time look for a GPS jammer. As a last resort, you could have someone follow the vehicle. This really only works well if there is a pattern to the loss of GPS data so you can target a day and time the event is likely to occur.