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ANSWERED on Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 11:09 am UTC by eiffel

Question: Tampering with a GPS device

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Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 9:09 am UTC

Question

montecristo
Customer

Related to http://uclue.com/?xq=3177 (but don't focus on the pet connection).

How can you nefariously stop a GPS tracking device from transmitting its location. I am thinking about hacking into it, or putting something like silver foil around it (I made both of those up). I don't  know if a look at how car alarms work may be relevant.

I am not interested in how you can physically tamper with the device. Assume you cannot touch the device.

 
 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 1:09 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Request for clarification

Patricia
Researcher

Hi montecristo,

Have you tried a film pouch, the kind used to protect your film at airports?

Sima FSM Film Shield-Extra Strength Mini Pouch
Product Features
Film bag with an x-ray shield
Guards against airport x-ray damage
Protects up to 3 rolls of film at a time
Lead foil bag with a polyester outer layer
Plastic clasp seal for easy closure
http://www.amazon.com/Sima-Film-Shield-Extra-Strength-Pouch/dp/B00004TISI/

Might work?
Patricia

 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 1:11 pm UTC

Question clarification

montecristo
Customer

Patricia, no, I haven't - would that work?

To clarify, what I am interested in is how someone who might really want to disable the device could do so, rather than how I might do so as a matter of curiosity. The former is going to try harder and be more determined.

 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 2:12 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Request for clarification

Patricia
Researcher

Montecristo, I think the lead pouch would work but couldn't they just remove the battery? Patricia

 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 2:37 pm UTC

Question clarification

montecristo
Customer

No, they cannot remove the battery. "I am not interested in how you can physically tamper with the device. Assume you cannot touch the device."

 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 2:43 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Request for clarification

Patricia
Researcher

Whoops, sorry. P

 

Tue 11 Aug 2009 - 10:51 pm UTC

Comment

myoarin
User

I saw a site that advertised a GPS tracker disabling device that plugged into a car's lighter socket, said to have a range of 16 ft.

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 9:37 am UTC

Uclue Researcher Request for clarification

Roger Browne
Researcher

Hi montecristo,

Looking at this from the point of view of the physics of the device, here are the possible ways to block the operation of the GPS tracking device without touching it:

1. Block the incoming GPS satellite signal.
2. Block the outgoing transmitted signal.
3. Jam the incoming GPS satellite signal.
4. Jam the outgoing transmitted signal.
5. Isolate the unit until its battery is discharged.
6. Damage the device to render it inoperable.
7. You could also sabotage the receiver, but that may not be within your remit.

(1) Blocking the incoming GPS satellite signal is the easiest. Patricia's suggestion of a metal film pouch will absolutely work 100% reliably. Incidentally, a bag made of metal mesh (say 1mm spacing) would work just as well as a metal-lined film pouch. If the GPS device is in a known orientation (e.g. attached to a car or even to a known position of a dog collar) it would probably be enough just to put a sheet of metal between the receiver and the sky but you would need to test this "in situ".

(2) Blocking the outgoing transmitted signal. A film pouch will work fine, but a single sheet of metal probably wouldn't, due to the higher power of the outgoing signal compared to the very weak incoming GPS signal.

(3) You could jam the incoming GPS satellite signal by broadcasting a "fake" GPS signal. This is no doubt illegal and could cause danger to other GPS users.

(4) You could jam the outgoing transmitted signal with a fake signal. If your transmitter is close to the (fixed?) receiver, it can be a very low power transmitter. Probably illegal.

(5) If the battery of the GPS tracking device is discharged, the device can't operate. All you need is time for this one to work.

(6) You could damage the GPS tracking device without touching it in a number of ways. Exposing it to excessive heat (e.g. from a hair dryer) should do the trick. It's potentially dangerous - beware of fumes and exploding batteries! Some units would fail after being drenched with water, or something more corrosive. A high-voltage electrical spark across the device would probably also work. Squirting glue into the battery charging connector (or battery compartment) would put the device out of action after the battery runs down.

(7) You could damage the receiver in similar ways.

I don't know of any practical way to hack into a GPS receiver and modify its firmware unless you have physical access. So reprogramming the device covertly is unlikely to be practical.

At this time, I'm not in a position to put this together into an answer with references, links to devices and instructions, etc. If you just want a general overview like this (e.g. for a book plot), let me know and I'll post this as the answer.

If you need something more specific, please let us know your needs and perhaps another researcher can take it forward to meet your requirements.

Regards,
Roger

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 10:30 am UTC

Comment

montecristo
Customer

I'll take that as an answer.

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 11:09 am UTC

Uclue Researcher Answer

Roger Browne
Researcher

Hi montecristo,

Thanks for letting me know that the information provided above meets your needs.

Regards,
eiffel

 
 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 11:48 am UTC

Accepted and rated

montecristo
Customer

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 11:48 am UTC

Request for clarification

montecristo
Customer

So is the reason that GPS works in a car, that there is a window? Could I not run GPS inside a tank, say?

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 6:42 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Answer clarification

Roger Browne
Researcher

Hi montecristo,

Yes, car GPS depends on receiving a GPS signal through the car windows.

GPS receivers which are made for use in environments without a clear view to the GPS satellites will include an antenna socket. This can be connected to a GPS antenna mounted outside the shielded area.

Regards,
eiffel

 

Wed 12 Aug 2009 - 10:34 pm UTC

Comment

myoarin
User

This item seems to work without an obvious antenna and also if placed in the glove compartment or fastened with magnets, presumably under a fender:
http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/covert-small-gps-tracking-device.html

But probably it still needs a non-metal, unshielded area for signals to pass.

 

Thu 13 Aug 2009 - 8:59 am UTC

Comment

frde
User

I'm pretty sure that friends in the insurance industry told me that expensive motorcycles and cars are fitted with trackers, so to steal them thieves put them inside a refrigerated truck.

It is not the refrigeration that does the trick, it is the fact that the 'box' is made of multiple skins of sealed metal.

 

Tue 8 Dec 2009 - 2:08 am UTC

Comment

sonartech
User

Additionally, Aluminum Foil tape would have the same effect to disrupt reception of a GPS signal.  Transmission of location, however, truly depends on the transmitted signal strength.  It seems to me that that's of little concern in this case;  if the intention is to just keep the location from being transmitted, you only have to keep the GPS device from knowing where it is.  Fine Brass mesh is the ideal material to build a Faraday cage.  Stainless steel mesh works as well, but is generally much harder to find. If the device can't determine it's geophysical location using GPS, who cares what it transmits to the service monitoring the device's location.  All it'll transmit is:

20:10 Unable to determine location - GPS signal too low
20:15 Unable to determine location - GPS signal too low
20:20 Unable to determine location - GPS signal too low
20:25 Unable to determine location - GPS signal too low
20:30 Unable to determine location - GPS signal too low

I would also charge that just blocking GPS signal reception looks less "suspicious" than killing the whole process end-to-end.

 

Thu 11 Mar 2010 - 6:09 am UTC

Comment

Sorry to dig up an old thread, but my employers have decided to start tracking are every move with something called "etrace". It's for payroll purposes as well. Anyway, if there's a point in the day that I decide I want to go get my oil changed or something like that, and I don't want them tracking me doing this, can I just get a lead lined film pouch and stuff my phone in it and this will prevent all GPS reception coming and in and out of my phone? I don't plan on doing this all the time, since that would look suspicious, but I've worked for this company for 11 years now and they've never had any problems with me. Every once in a while, during the day, I'll do something not work related that I'd have to do. As long as all of my work has been done on time, it hasn't been a problem. Well, it will be a problem now since they'll be tracking my every move. Anyway, will the lead lined film pouch block the GPS? Is there a certain type of pouch that works the best? Thank You.

 

Thu 11 Mar 2010 - 11:55 am UTC

Comment

myoarin
User

HI Steeldude,

Uclue admin will probably suggest that you post your own question.

What you are suggesting may appear more suspicious and raise more questions than if you try to clarify with mgmt  - with your good record -  an occasional side trip that can be justified and verified on etrace.

Regards, Myoarin

 

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