Sunday, February 15, 2015

I spy with Gost's eye

I'm installing a GOST Nav-Tracker system today, and this is a piece of cake technically. Doing it well however takes some ingenuity. What we're doing is trying to outwit the thief that wants to steal your boat. For many whose boats are considered statistically attractive to those employed in the marine vessel purloin profession your insurance carrier will mandate one of these system.

The ingenuity comes into play because you have to do your best to hide these systems from an experienced filcher. Sometimes this is fairly easy to do, and sometimes not so much. My sense is that the experience thief wants to get the boat out on the water as quickly as possible. Once well clear of the dock they will start to hunt for it. Using the phrase "my sense is" is not to imply I have any actual experience in heisting a boat, but merely an extrapolation of how I would go about it. These pictures have been severely redacted to insure the locations of these pieces and the type of boat are not divulged.

So we have three pieces to contend with, the first being the most difficult. This is a combination of a GPS receiver and can uplink to a Inmarsat satellite when told to.

Radio waves will pass through fiberglass so there are a lot of possible locations like under a deck, or inside a compartment as examples.

But rule one is that it shouldn't be located out in plain sight. You just have to do the best you can to make it difficult to be found. By delaying a professional from finding it increases the chances the system can start to uplink position data and the sound the alarm when the vessel starts to move.

These systems need some way to be disabled when the owner is going out a three hour tour in the boat. The simplest approach is the one used here, a simple on off switch.

This little beasty can not be obvious either. No big label saying disarm security switch is here. It's also is better hidden, but not so thoroughly cached away that it's difficult to get at. If it's too hard to access lazy owners won't bother to arm the system all of the time when they leave.

The last piece of the puzzle is the wiring. This isn't rocket science but I do two things. The first is the system needs to be connect to a battery directly and have power on all of the time.

My theory is that an experienced thief will look at the batteries and see it there are small gauge wires attached to the terminals. Any spotted will get ripped off.

Depending on the boat there are several things that are possible. The first is to change the power wire gauge to a much larger size and maybe give it a label like stereo amp or the ilk. Another scenario is to take the power wire from the battery and route it to a block elsewhere where the power connection is one of many in a sea of wiring.

In all of these scenarios you should end up like the photo below. Do you see anything that seems out of place or has been added? Nope? Then that is the way it should look. Factory installed appearance and few clues to find. This isn't where the actual connections are, just an example of how it should look when you're done.

In the end these systems are better than nothing but a skilled technical miscreant will eventually be able to locate and disable the tracking gear. The real trick to to slow this process down to give the authorities time to respond, at least to the last reported location the boat was at.

For those not so skilled in the dark arts of boat theft these systems will point the searchers to the boat's exact location and this will cause an unanticipated trip to the big house. My advice is boat theft is very risky, so don't do it. I'm going to make it difficult for you.


  1. Portable GPS blocking devices ("jammers") are small, portable, and very available (and very illegal, but so is boat theft). It would seem that any "professional" thief would be carrying one and leaving it on until the boat can be thoroughly inspected for anti-theft devices when it arrives at the thief's destination.

    1. Karl, thanks, I was aware of this. For a couple of thousand dollars more you can take out the entire L band, for miles around you. I wouldn't want to be caught with one of those in my possession.


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