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RECENT attacks on global satellite navigation systems (GNSS), on which much of the UK’s critical digital infrastructure relies, have sparked fears that Russia could “bring down” large swathes of the UK economy” over this “national security threat”, Express.co.uk has been warned.
Ministers and experts have raised the alarm after Moscow’s “increasingly hostile” activities in space, involving frequent jamming and spoofing attacks on GPS satellites.
These satellites, like other GNSS’, are used for navigation, mapping and timing, and have become “part of our daily life for people and nations all around the world”.
As the systems provide precise, consistent and accurate timing for all Critical National Infrastructure (CIN) systems, an attack on the satellites could potentially be catastrophic.
CINs include emergency services, telecom networks, the energy sector, and broadcast and finance institutes.
In fact, Ganesh PattabiramanCEO of NextGev has warned that an attack on GNSS could potentially bring down huge sections of the UK economy and has argued that the vulnerability of these systems is a “national security threat.”
He told Express.co.uk in an exclusive interview: “It is a well-known fact that Russia has the ability to jam GPS quite pervasively and the war in Ukraine magnified and amplified that point.”
Since Russia first invaded Ukraine back in mid-February, Ukrainian military sources have said that various jamming systems had been deployed by Russia.
This, they warned, affected communications around Chernihiv in northern Ukraine.
But these kinds of attacks are not just limited to military operations in war.
In fact, experts have warned that this technique of attacking satellite signals has become a “common tool in Russia’s arsenal” against the West.
Mr Pattabiraman explained: “The war is with Ukraine, but we have seen reports across Baltic states, Eastern Europe and the Kaliningrad area where Russia was jamming GPS up to the point where the European aviation safety agency called for all aircraft to ignore GPS in those areas because of jamming and spoofing.
“This has made the theoretical very real, and it has highlighted the broader issue of GPS dependencies that all western economies have.”
“Without firing a single shot, Russia have been able to affect, in this case aviation, and bring down a lot of activities would not have considered threatened in the past.”
While the UK’s reliance on GNSS has yet to be a problem, a report by London Economics warned that an attack on these vulnerable systems could result in a £1billion loss per day loss over a five-day period for the British economy.
Mr Pattabiraman went on: “The national security vulnerability comes from the fact that the economy as a whole, in the UK, depends on 14 or 15 critical infrastructure services, from telecoms to power to the electrical grid and the financial sector.
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“All of them are reliant on GNSS in some form, and the fact that they (Russia) can impair the services by essentially jamming and spoofing, attacking either through the airwaves or via a cyber attack and fake tiny signals, it can essentially bring down large sectors all of the economy.
“For instance, in the financial sector if all of the banks had the wrong time stamps then all of the transactions on the stock market are considered invalid, which leads to ultimate chaos and people can’t pull money out of their banks. From that perspective, it leads directly to a national security threat, which is how all the different Governments are dealing with it.”
But to avert the Russian threat, Mr Pattabiraman NextGev has come up with a plan.
He explained: “We are essentially putting GPS satellites on the ground. We essentially transmit a GPS-like signal, but it is terrestrial, and it is on frequencies that are within your borders.
“Each of our transmitters has an atomic clock built into it, the same built into GPS satellites, and they can listen to each other and self-synchronize.
“In effect, what we’ve got is this redundant network of transmitters that can essentially deliver position, navigation and timing that is entirely independent of GPS in the areas that we are covering.
“We cover large cities in the US today, and we are hoping to do the same in the UK.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office for comment.
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