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(LEAD) N. Korea's GPS jamming targeted at aircraft navigation systems: official

All Headlines 19:00 April 05, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS readiness inspection by minister in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's continuing attempts to jam South Korea' Global Positioning System (GPS) may be aimed at disrupting the navigation systems of aircraft, government officials said, as the communist country continued to send jamming signals on Tuesday.

In a provocative operation that started in late March, North Korea has been sending GPS-jamming signals across the border. The signals began last Thursday and continued on and off into Tuesday, according to military and information and communication technology (ICT) sector officials.

"An assessment showed that North Korea's near daily GPS-jamming activity seems to be targeting aircraft navigation equipment," an intelligence source said, asking not to be named.

But the North Korean operation has not yet resulted in any trouble with South Korea's aircraft because they all use both GPS and an inertial navigation system that is immune to jamming attacks, the official said.

In the GPS disruption campaign so far, the North has broadcast jamming signals on a total of 100 occasions and, at their maximum output, reached more than 45 decibels, the official said.

The strength of the signals is constantly lessening or increasing in what appears to be a new type of assault operation, according to the official.

The country's ICT ministry said the jamming attack has not led to any major GPS disruption locally as of Tuesday, although a total of 962 airplanes have been exposed to the malicious signals.

Nearly 700 fishing ships have been subject to the signals as well, while a total of 1,786 mobile telecommunication base stations have been exposed.

Officials said North Korea had previously launched similar jamming assaults three times between 2010 and 2012, which partly disrupted the GPS-guided navigation of some 1,000 passenger jets as well as of the military's unmanned aerial vehicles.

Amid a heightened alert over the jamming, ICT Minister Choi Yang-hee inspected the military's readiness to counter potential North Korean cyberspace assaults.

Choi visited the military's Cyber Command earlier in the day and urged its resident experts to maintain "watertight" cybersecurity readiness, the defense ministry said in a statement.

He also called for more security measures to better detect and prevent any cyberspace attacks before they actually occur.

Last week, South Korea warned Pyongyang to immediately stop the GPS jamming operation, which it said is in violation of international rules and can endanger the lives of ordinary people.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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