Image: Shutterstock – Interesting. The man in this stock photo looks a bit like our friend Vint Cerf at Google.

What’s New – This morning we noticed Microsoft 360 had put an icon on our computer tool bar forCopilot, your everyday AI companion.”  – We are not really a fan of AI. But we spent many years in the cockpit, were curious, and were wondering what we would write about today. So…we asked for three paragraphs on GPS vulnerability.

Why It’s ImportantCopilot got most of it right. Probably evidence that there is a lot of info available and most of it is consistent.

What Else to Know –

  • We really like that Copilot included footnotes. It came up with some references that we did not know about or had forgotten.
  • See our notes in red bold italics in the text Copilot produced below.


Command: Write three paragraphs about GPS vulnerability.

  1. Susceptibility to Jamming and Spoofing: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is more vulnerable than many realize. Its signals, used by aircraft, ships, farm tractors, and smartphones, originate from satellites 12,000 miles (19,300 kilometers) away in space. By the time these signals reach Earth, they are vanishingly weak and easily overwhelmed. Instances of jamming and spoofing have been reported, affecting the reliability of GPS readings. For example, a Cessna Citation Excel flying near Sun Valley, Idaho, experienced unreliable GPS signals due to military activity causing jamming. Fortunately, ground radar provided accurate information, ensuring the plane’s safe landing. The absence of a dedicated backup system for GPS remains a significant concern, given its critical role in modern life and the US military operations1. This is a CNET article from 2021.
  2. Threats and Economic Impact: GPS underpins various aspects of our daily lives, from financial transactions to electrical grid synchronization and navigation. Its highly precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities have an economic impact of approximately $1 billion per day in the US alone. We have talked before how this number is a gross underestimation. Seems to us negligence or at least lack of situational awareness on the part of the govt folks who sponsored the study/report. See The billion-dollar-a-day GPS mistake.”  However, documented threats include jamming, spoofing, and environmental phenomena. With just a few hundred dollars of commercially available hardware and free software, hackers can disrupt or replace GPS signals. Solar flares, system errors, and equipment failures also contribute to vulnerabilities. The lack of a dedicated backup system underscores the need for resilience in GPS-dependent systems2. This is a reference to a DHS CISA document we had forgotten about.
  3. Addressing the Risks: Efforts are underway to enhance GPS security. Recent satellite launches aim to improve the system’s resilience. However, challenges persist, including large-scale events like nuclear exchanges affecting space systems and localized threats such as jamming or spoofing. Researchers and organizations continue to explore alternatives and mitigation strategies to safeguard GPS. As we rely more on this technology, ensuring its robustness becomes crucial for both civilian and military applications3.  We would have been a bit stronger on this point if we had been writing. But not too bad considering…

In summary, while GPS revolutionizes navigation and communication, its vulnerabilities demand attention and proactive measures to protect critical infrastructure and services.