DHS offering GPS resiliency tests for critical infrastructure devices

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The Department of Homeland Security is offering critical infrastructure component manufacturers a chance to test their wares against Global Positioning System disruption. 

“Accurate and precise position, navigation, and timing (PNT) information is vital to the nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Robert Griffin, acting DHS undersecretary for science and technology, in a written statement. 

The tests will take place in April. The DHS will accept applications to participate until March 3. 

Though GPS is best known to consumers for accurately determining locations, many of its most critical uses are from accurately determining time. 

GPS determines locations by triangulating satellite systems broadcasting an extremely accurate time signal. But the time signal itself is extremely useful — a critical component of everything from synchronizing telecommunications systems to stock market transactions, where it’s the only feasible way to track the millisecond by millisecond world of high-frequency trading.

“What we’re envisioning in the long term is having a couple of test events a year,” said Sara Mahmood, a DHS program manager. 

{mosads}GPS outages are not common, but are more than theoretical. In 2009, for example, Newark Liberty International Airport suffered GPS outages in an air traffic control system whenever a man, named Gary Bojczak, drove by.

Bojczak worked for an engineering firm that tracked the locations of company trucks through GPS and used a GPS jamming device to shake his boss’s surveillance. But whenever he passed the airport, a GPS outage passed with him.

GPS signals can be disrupted through jamming, taking a device out of contact with the GPS satellite; or spoofed, tricked through a fake signal to miscalculate location or time. 

For now, GPS incidents that have become a public menace are rare and usually accidental. 

“We are ahead of the problem. That’s a good place to be,” said Mahmood.

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