Rib#9:Dependency Shock

(Riblet: a brief risk management morsel; from NIB – “news in brief”, and niblet – a tasty morsel; riblets are also the ridges on a shark’s skin that enable it to swim faster).  

If the entire system went down, it would cost the US $1bn a day, and worldwide, much much more.  GPS (Global Positioning System), which is maintained by the US Air Force, is ingrained into daily life, being used to guide ships and planes, cranes and trucks, farming, mining and drilling – extreme dependency, you might say.

Well, the entire system has never failed, but an EU investigation found that between December 2017 and October 2018, there were over 15,000 events where it was jammed or interfered with.  A lot of these were around conflict zones such as the eastern Mediterranean, a very busy shipping bottleneck, or they were localised events used to disguise illicit fishing or mask other illegal activities.  The risk to shipping is that GPS is jammed or spoofed (it tells you you are somewhere you are not) and that as a consequence a ship runs aground or is wrecked with potentially devastating consequences e.g. in the case of an oil tanker. And a localised jamming device can be bought online for as little as $20.

Military planes and ships carry expensive anti-jamming devices.  So far, merchant shipping which carries 80% of the world’s trade and works on small profit margins, has not gone for a technology solution. Instead, shipping officers are being trained in the ancient art of celestial navigation and told to look out the window before they rely on GPS…

How would the failure of GPS affect your life and business? What would you do to cope with it?

What else do you have extreme dependency on?

Data Source: Fortune magazine

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