newsIsrael at War

GPS jamming wreaks havoc for Israelis using location apps

The jamming comes days after the Israeli-attributed assassination of an Iranian general in Damascus.

The Israeli Air Force integrates an anti-jamming GPS system onto F-16s and UAVs, made by Israel Aerospace Industries. Credit: IAI.
The Israeli Air Force integrates an anti-jamming GPS system onto F-16s and UAVs, made by Israel Aerospace Industries. Credit: IAI.

Numerous drivers in central Israel report that navigation apps like Waze, Google Maps and the taxi pickup app Gett are suddenly showing their locations in places they are definitely not—including as far away as Beirut, Lebanon.

Other GPS-reliant services such as the Wolt delivery platform are sometimes exhibiting the same bizarre location errors, falsely placing couriers in areas like Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Israel Hayom reported.

The disruptions appear to be an extension of the IDF’s ongoing GPS jamming operations in the north amid heightened conflict with Hezbollah in that region.

However, the Israeli military has yet to comment on the situation.

“I was trying to navigate to a meeting in Petach Tikvah, but Waze had me supposedly driving around downtown Beirut,” Tel Aviv resident Yuval Barak said. “I restarted the app several times but it kept showing me in Lebanon.”

And passengers on the Tel Aviv Light Rail said that they couldn’t pay for their trips using the popular Moovit app since it couldn’t correctly pinpoint locations, Channel 12 reported.

At the same time, reports have been received that mobile phones with smart locks opened and closed by themselves.

Disruptions to GPS were also reported in central Israel last Thursday.

“The disruptions are an effective tool to confuse a weapon that [uses] GPS [to navigate],” the former head of the national cyber system, Yigal Ona, told Ynet.

“Like any strong medicine, it has side effects, and in the meantime, I suggest going back to the maps once in a while. It can be managed. It’s not an attack—it’s a defense,” he said.

The most recent jamming comes days after the Israeli-attributed targeted killing in Damascus on Monday of an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general, Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Zahedi is the most senior regime official to be killed since the death of leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran four years ago.

Iran vowed to take revenge with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatening Israel in a Hebrew-language tweet.

Israel announced it was bolstering its air defense system amid the threats of Iranian retaliation.

For months, residents of northern Israel have been grappling with deliberate GPS disruptions carried out by the Israeli military as part of the fighting in the region. But this morning, it appears these jamming efforts have now extended to the central part of the country.

It was only in late December that Waze, in coordination with the IDF Home Front Command, resumed showing traffic data for the first time since hostilities began in October. But the app still withholds comprehensive traffic maps in certain areas as part of security precautions.

The ramifications of the widening GPS blackouts remain unclear. Beyond the hassles for civilian drivers, there are safety concerns for emergency responders and commercial transit unable to reliably track locations. Delivery services have already reported major difficulties completing routes.

“We’re essentially having to navigate blind right now,” said Dima Khalil, a Wolt courier in Rishon LeZion. “My app thinks I’m in the middle of Sinai, so there’s no way for orders to properly reach me.”

Waze also has not provided any official statement on the issue impacting its central Israeli user base. But images circulating online show unmistakable GPS deviations spanning the entire region.

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate issued an annual warning on Wednesday of additional attacks by Iran ahead of its al-Quds Day, which takes place on Friday, the last Friday of Ramadan.

“Every year during this period, attacks are identified, usually less sophisticated and of the type that is easier to carry out on a large scale, such as defacing websites, taking over smart home systems, distributing text messages containing phishing messages, hacking into social networks, infiltrating company databases and information leaks,” the Cyber Directorate said.

Originally published by Israel Hayom; JNS Staff contributed to this report.

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