Electromagnetic Warfare Is Here

In the 2001 action movie Ocean’s Eleven, criminals use an electromagnetic weaponto black out a portion of Las Vegas. Very futuristic, you may say, but the threat is real and growing.

The problem is growing because the technology available to attackers has improved even as the technology being attacked has become more vulnerable. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on closely integrated, high-speed electronic systems operating at low internal voltages. That means they can be laid low by short, sharp pulses high in voltage but low in energy—output that can now be generated by a machine the size of a suitcase, batteries included.

Electromagnetic (EM) attacks are not only possible—they are happening. One may be under way as you read this. Even so, you would probably never hear of it: These stories are typically hushed up, for the sake of security or the victims’ reputation. Occasionally, though, an incident comes to light.

In May 2012, for instance, the Korea Herald reported that over 500 aircraft flying in and out of South Korea’s Incheon and Gimpo airports reported GPS failures, as did hundreds of ships and fishing boats in the sea west of Incheon Airport. The source of the EM fields was traced to the North Korean city of Kaesong, about 50 kilometers north of Incheon. South Korean officials indicated that North Korea had imported truck-based jamming systems in 2010 that had the capability to jam GPS signals. These officials speculated that one purpose of the jamming was to interfere with South Korea’s highly digital society. Or perhaps the North Koreans were conducting an experiment, using South Korea as their beta tester...


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