Road to nowhere?
New research has warned that the UK might be becoming over-reliant on sat-nav signals, which plenty of consumers use every day and industries depend upon.
The Royal Academy of Engineering's research warned that too many applications have little backup if they were to lose signals, The BBC reported.
Dr Martyn Thomas, who chaired the group that wrote the report, reportedly said: "What we're saying is that there is a growing interdependence between systems that people think are backing each other up. And it might well be that if a number these systems fail simultaneously, it will cause commercial damage or just conceivably loss of life. This is wholly avoidable."
As well as financial systems, the emergency services, railways, airplanes and other industries that use the systems, the impact of failure could apparently be huge for individuals as well as the state, as car dashboard sat-navs, mobile apps and data networks use Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS.)
If the satellites went offline it could also lead to financial problems, as the European Commission has reportedly estimated that around 6-7 percent, (£690bn per year) of Europe's GDP depends on GNSS data.
Worryingly, the Academy's report apparently suggests sat-nav signals are quite weak and open to corruption and interference, meaning they could be affected by deliberate jamming or natural occurrences like solar flares.
The report's co-author Prof Jim Norton, reportedly said: "We concluded that the UK was already dangerously dependent on GPS as a single source of position, navigation and timing data."
He reportedly added: "The back-up systems are often inadequate or un-tested; the jammers are far too easily available and that the risks from them are increasing. No-one has a full picture of the dependencies on GPS and similar systems and that risks could be managed and reduced if government and industry worked together."
Among the report's 10 recommendations is that the possession of jamming equipment is made illegal. Criminal gangs apparently use this technology already to block GPS tracking systems in lorries and cars they intend on nicking and it is for sale online for as little as £20.
Prof Norton said: "It's already illegal to put GNSS jamming equipment on the market in the UK. The problem is it's not necessarily illegal to hold it, to import or even to advertise it. It doesn't require legislation; it just requires Ofcom to place a banning order, and we would strongly recommend they do that."