Jordanians say problems caused by Israeli GPS jamming have worsened

Malfunctions in location-based apps increased in the days before Iran's attack on Israel

Makers of the initiative Taxi For Women in Jordan Rahma (front) , Maha (R) and Sura (L) look for a cap in a street in Amman, Jordan. (Salah Malkawi for The National)  *** Local Caption ***  SM006_Taxi.jpg
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Users of location-based apps in Jordan say glitches they had been experiencing for weeks have been worse since the days before Iran attacked Israel with drones and missiles on Saturday.

The widespread and extended disruptions in services using the Global Positioning System (GPS) began to be noticed in Jordan and other neighbouring countries a week ago after the Israeli army said it had bolstered its air defence systems in response to Iran's threat to retaliate for an attack that killed senior members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria.

Israel has admitted to increasing GPS jamming in the region in a bid to thwart attacks since the start of its war against the Hamas militant group in Gaza in October and the related cross-border conflict with the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

The head of Jordan's Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission, Haitham Misto, said on Saturday that air traffic in the kingdom had been affected due to interference with their GPS, leading to the use of alternative systems for landings.

GPS spoofing

Ordinary Jordanians say they have been suffering for several weeks now from Israel's GPS jamming as well as spoofing, which is when the system is tricked to show the user at a different location to their actual position.

“I noticed a significant dip in the number of customers booking me in my Uber and Careem apps for the past week compared to in the past," Mohammed Saleh, a Jordanian driver, told The National.

"Tourists are saying that when they use the app it automatically shows them in either Cairo or Beirut, and most of the time they’re not bothered with manually changing their location to Amman.”

Several tourists in the Jordanian capital told The National they had also been struggling to find their way across the city on foot because Google Maps have been redirecting their real-time locations to either Beirut or Cairo.

“We usually use apps like Uber to help us get from point A to point B and we like using it because it takes away the challenge of payment and rates since we can pay on the apps. But because of the GPS jamming, we’re noticing it’s just easier now to hail a taxi on the road to get to places,” said a visitor from Italy.

Majdi Al Qabalin, a Jordanian cybersecurity expert, said Israel was currently conducting a massive jamming operation on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) with the help of several countries, and that it was affecting Jordan.

According to Mr Al Qabalin, the goal of this operation is to jam drone guidance systems, with a focus on Yemeni, Palestinian and Lebanese drones.

Nedal Alsamara, the director of the Radio Spectrum Management Directorate of Jordan’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, said on Thursday that Amman has contacted Israel regarding the problem of GPS spoofing and was still waiting for a response.

“The areas most affected by interference with the Global Positioning System are the western and northern regions of the kingdom,” he said.

Jordan security alert

Jordan has been on high alert since Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel, which involved more than 300 missiles and drones.

A staunch ally of the US, Jordan shot down most of the Iranian drones and missiles that flew over its territory towards Israel, with the help of American air defences and support from the UK and France.

Since then, the Royal Jordanian Air Force has increased its air sorties to “prevent any air penetration” and defend Jordanian air space. Fighter jets can be heard flying over Amman, especially during the evenings.

In an interview published by state media, the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi said on Wednesday that an Israeli retaliation against the Iranian attack carried a real risk of dragging the whole region into a devastating war.

Mr Al Safadi said Amman has been lobbying major powers to prevent an escalation.

"The risks are enormous. That could drag the whole region into war, which would be devastating to us in the region and will have very, very serious implications for the rest of the world including the US," Mr Al Safadi said.

"The situation is too dangerous. The chances of regional explosion are real, and that has got to stop. We’ve got to make sure there’s no further escalation.”

Updated: April 18, 2024, 12:37 PM