It is important to recognise how vulnerable our technology is and how over-dependent we have become to fragile systems, some of which was built during a more trusting era.
Many things we do today, and much of our economy, relies on global navigation satellite navigation and time keeping. Much of the western economy relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS), an aging, fragile, and vulnerable US military project. Turns out that it can be easily be jammed, hacked, and turned off. And has been. Sometimes unintentionally.
All this makes for a good argument to learn how to use an old-fashioned compass and read a map.
From Elisabeth Braw, Foreign Policy:
During NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise in October, the Norwegian airline Wideroe reported a loss of GPS signal in airplanes flying in the north of the country. At the same time, Finland’s Air Navigation Services, a government aviation authority, issued a similar warning to the country’s airlines. In both places, somebody was jamming GPS systems. Several months earlier, the airport in the French city of Nantes had experienced similar disruptions. The ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) used to assist aircraft during takeoff and landing repeatedly failed, without a detectable mechanical cause.
Nantes’s mystery was solved when airport staff discovered a GPS jammer in the car of a passenger who had forgotten to turn it off before leaving on a transcontinental flight. Norway and Finland had a more serious issue. “It’s a problem that Russia doesn’t respect civilian aviation in the North,” Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told Norwegian national radio.
Armed forces everywhere practice disrupting their adversaries’ navigation. But the nature of GPS makes it an especially vulnerable point—a tool used by both military and civilians, and so potentially fragile that a single culprit, like the contractor at Nantes Airport, can disrupt it.
Related: The World Economy Runs on GPS. It Needs a Backup Plan – Paul Tullis, Bloomberg