back to article North Korean GPS blocking sparks cyber war fears

South Korea will lodge an official complaint with the UN over its reclusive neighbour after GPS-blocking by the North for over a week disrupted hundreds of flights, in what some officials are worried could be the first signs of a looming cyber war. Over 500 aircraft flying to or from South Korea’s main airports of Incheon and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    If only they could find oil

    If only they could find oil in North Korea, then things would be alot easier to sort out.

    Still, not like there aint missiles out there that don't use GPS and some that probably home in on any signal you care to point it at, even jamming signals.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: If only they could find oil

      There are missiles that not only home in on the jamming but can home in on "warm" sets too. Most ICBM use star tracking as backups too.

  2. JaitcH

    Relief is spelt SEXTANT

    The US Naval Academy announced that it was discontinuing its course on celestial navigation, considered to be one of its more demanding courses, from the formal curriculum in the spring of 1998 stating that a sextant is accurate to a three-mile (5 km) radius, So I guess only old sea dogs will be able to navigate around South Korea.

    Or they could dig up an old Decca Navigator system, which woks in the VLF band and is more difficult to jam - good enough to be picked up by BOAC aircraft in the Cold War when they flew to Moscow.

  3. Turtle_Fan


    While we techies love anything technologically advanced, society's utter reliance on comms is indeed dangerous.

    Although I find it naive that any military is taking public comms infrastructure or things like gps for granted.

    I was with the UN in the late 90's and we still had to exercise on fallbacks like reading maps and doing triangulations despite being equipped with all sorts of (classified) 'shiny'.

    (Joke Alert): If however, the price of peace in the Korean peninsula is a week without StarCraft for the Koreans then so be it.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: Sad

      It is one thing for individuals to be reliant on it but another more dangerous thing for planes, cars and ships to be reliant on it.

      You can see how driverless cars can be made to crash if they are reliant on positioning technology.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sad

        "You can see how driverless cars can be made to crash if they are reliant on positioning technology."

        Driver-less cars are only reliant on satellite navigation for navigation (the clue is in the name); collision avoidance uses optical sensors (like the meatware prototype) together with short range radar and sonar; similar to parking sensors in use in human guided vehicles.

        No need to start worrying about death and destruction caused by GPS outage; the worst is that you won't get where you want to go or it will take longer because you have to stop and buy a map.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Naughty, naughty

    The Norks will bear watching. I can see how this is just a practice run for future disruption of the South, but I don't quite see how jamming GPS means that Cyberwarfare is on the cards.

    Not that I think they wouldn't get into cyberwarfare, but it seems to me that they are distinctly different approaches to pissing off the South - not least because GPS jamming can only affect the South, whereas a cyber attack capability could be applied globally.

    They might not get away with that as easily.

    1. Nights_are_Long

      Re: Naughty, naughty

      Hehe you said "Norks"...

      Now I can picture little Kimmy chasing round some sexy Korean women to the Benny Hill tune....

      1. TchmilFan

        Re: Naughty, naughty

        And for your further titillation... Nork is near Sutton in Surrey.

        Oh the hilarity!

  5. Silverburn

    Witness story on El Reg from a few months ago. UK/US military/naval exercises based on GPS-jammed warfare. So this tactics has been anticipated by our military bods for quite a while.

    Should military action be taken, I suspect the NK's will need more than GPS jamming...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    satnav rivals

    You end your article about GPS jamming with "A realisation of the strategic importance of GPS in the event of a potential conflict" has led to China and Russia launching their own satnav rivals. Yet having your own set of satellites does not help if their signal is jammed too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      your own set of satellites

      True, but it does help when the only owner of the GPS system (the US) turns the GPS off for strategic reasons.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: satnav rivals

      Somehow I suspect the North Koreans won't interfere with the Chinese navigation system.

      But I reckon there's a distinct possibility of the Pentagon saying 'oh no, our GPS enabled cruise missile that was going to Afghanistan seems to have been jammed and instead flew into a building in Kaesong.'

  7. Martyn 1

    Think about the poor Geocachers

    How are they going to find their plastic boxes in Korea now?

    1. Emilio Desalvo

      Re: Think about the poor Geocachers

      I would not search for plastic boxes in North Korea, as they are probably landmines...

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Re: Think about the poor Geocachers

      If you strayed over the border to NK looking for hidden boxes while being directed by an electronic gadget, there's now a very good chance you'll have far more serious things to worry about when the NK military find you and offer you a cup of tea and a chat at their HQ!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sounds evil but

        Just imagining a scene where some tourist trying to explain what "geo caching" is to a high level NK military guy and guy looking to meaning of "cache" in his military English dictionary makes me laugh.

        It will likely say "see also: weapons cache"

  8. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    launching satnav rivals ...

    Don't forget Europe! Europe is launching the Galileo system as its own GPS network. I don't suppose the Russians and Chinese are MUCH more reliable than the Americans so we will have our own as well.

  9. JohnG

    GPS reliability

    AFAIK, commercial aircraft are required to alternative means of navigation (e.g. INS), as GPS is not (yet) deemed reliable enough to be used in isolation. The first problem being that the commercial GPS signal may be disabled at any time for military reasons.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Russian System

    It's called GLONASS.

  11. Caesarius

    GPG, military usage, and alternatives like LORAN

    I remember GPS being very much to do with US military, and that only they could make use of the more accurate position information: everyone else had to make do with the less accurate version, which was dithered I believe. About the time people started making headway with averaging techniques to get more accuracy out of the low accuracy information, the US military removed the encryption on the high accuracy information.

    How do I reconcile a) assumed military reliance on GPS with b) GPS's painfully low jamming margin? They must have sufficient diversity planned. I'd expect training with sextants and morse code and all sorts of other low(er)-tech options, but perhaps I am unreasonably hopeful.

    People not having a backup plan seems risky, a bit like not having backups of essential files ;-)

    BTW, people might like to look into any resurgence of LORAN. Whereas many LORAN transmitters have been turned off, I predict they will be reinstated. One great thing in it's favour is that it takes a lot of effort to jam it!

  12. ManxPower


    Nice to see Lightsquared finally found a place to build their LTE network. 8-)

  13. Ilgaz

    Surprises may occur

    It seems very interesting that we're automatically thinking the retaliation would be polite, cyber etc. You know, if you port scan me, I bsod you like logic.

    On the other hand, army generals worldwide keeps saying they can use military force in case of a really, really serious cyber attack which comes to the point of risking lives of whole nation. They say it openly for a decade now.

    I know a not very well known, kinda dark company which got their domain cybersquatted. Did they call a lawyer? Mail to registrar? No. Word on street is, they found the guy and beat the hell out of him to give password. Obviously, thugs had no connection with the highly respected company.

    Things really started to get out of hand since duqu. I mean, government scale cyber war sounds way more dangerous than fake missile shows nobody care about.

    What if South Korean fanatic politicians or some huge, evil arms company decides to trigger a real war? North gives perfect excuse and it almost (or really some claim) happened in 1980s.

  14. Don Jefe


    This isn't really a story. Aircraft have a number of navagation options beyond GPS. Stories like this just give the Norks reason to keep mucking up things.

  15. Mectron


    DECLARATION OF WAR ON THE PART OF NK. time to send some will aim nuke and wipeout this miserable wasteland from the map.... a STOP PAYMENT warning on china.... will keep them from interfering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: another

      What are you, a Troll or just a retard?

  16. regadpellagru

    "As a result, South Korea will complain to UN agency the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as well as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), warning that its northern neighbour is breaking UN rules and endangering the safety of passengers."

    Is beyond me why SK bothers to complain to ITU about a nation whose bonkers leaders give the 2 fingers salute about everything including nuke tests to the whole planet since so many years.

  17. TchmilFan

    Oh goody. Going to Seoul again in June.

    Modern electrickery is quite handy on the way in to Incheon.

    Take a look at the approach charts

    Notice the big "Do not fly" line?

    It's also quite prone to fog, the airport's on an island and there aren't many major landmarks for navigating until you're on final. I don't know but they're probably using GPS augmented ILS (anyone?) so any jamming's not going to be too helpful.

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