In recent years, the GPS net in Finnmark, Northern Norway has been down on a regular basis due to jamming of signals.
District Police Chief Ellen Katrine Hætta first noticed jamming in 2017 and then notified the Norwegian Police Directorate.
The National Security Authority has analyzed the jamming and in September 2018 verified that the jamming came from the east. The intelligence services have concluded that Russia was behind it.
Jamming is a way of destroying a signal through sending out one signal that overshadows another one. In this way, jamming GPS signals brings communications and navigation systems down and they lose their function.
Still a problem
“The last incident was not long ago. In April/May this year we registered another episode. We report all incidents to the Police Directorate. There is not much they can do about it. We as a society need to improve our systems, says Police Chief Ellen Katrine Hætta to High North News.
How dangerous is this to civilian aviation and for others depending on GPS navigation?
“Many health services in Finnmark use GPS-based maps. Home-based health services and the ambulances use GPS to navigate.”
“In the police, we use personal security alarms for individuals needing protection and these alarms have position marking. If a woman exposed to violence and death threats pushes her alarm button, we may not be able to locate her if there is a simultaneous jamming of GPS signals. We may not reach her until the assailant has killed her. This is potentially very dangerous.”
How long does such jamming last?
“That is a bit on and off. It may last for hours, it may last for days.”
Does this jamming cause fear in Finnmark?
“Perhaps more irritation than fear. Especially when I speak with entrepreneurs, they tell me there is trouble with their GPS and it causes extra work and extra costs for them.”
There have been speculations that jamming may be related to Trident Juncture and other NATO exercises in Norway. How do you interpret these incidents?
“They may stem from various conditions, amongst others with increased exercise activity in Russia. This has lasted for so many years now that I believe this is a part of the new ‘normal’ and we have to prepare for it. We must be prepared that GPS may not necessarily give us the right marking of positions. We then need other tools that we can apply, such as a manual map and compass.
Have you taken any measures to stop this jamming?
“We as a police cannot take any measures. We have neither the equipment nor the competence to do anything. The only thing we can do is to report this to our superiors, which we have done. This is also a foreign policy issue, which is not any of my business.”
Hybrid warfare is a military strategy applying a mix of conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber attacks.
At a seminar in Bodø, Norway recently, Professor Odd-Jarl Borch at Nord University pointed out that a pattern has started to emerge from the use of this kind of threat.
“This is very complex and hits various actors. And perhaps we do not know much about the connections in this. It is important that there is free research into this issue, and we currently lack focus there.”
“One of the brilliant things about this kind of tools is that they are complex and partially hidden. When someone is jamming GPS signals; whose responsibility is that? Is it the Finnmark District Police Chief, or is it someone in the Ministry of Transport, or in another ministry? The responsibility is shared amongst several parties and we lack unfied action when managing these threats.”
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.