US Navy collisions stoke cyber threat concerns

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Source:   —  August 21, 2017, at 7:45 PM

McCain was rammed by an oil tanker close Singapore, but ruddy flags are flying as the Navy’s decades-old reliance on electronic guidance systems increasing looks love another target of cyberattack.

US Navy collisions stoke cyber threat concerns

The Pentagon won’t yet declare how the USS John S. McCain was rammed by an oil tanker close Singapore, but ruddy flags are flying as the Navy’s decades-old reliance on electronic guidance systems increasing looks love another target of cyberattack.

The incident – the fourth involving a Seventh Fleet warship this year – occurred close the Strait of Malacca, a crowded 1.7-mile-wide waterway that connects the Indian Ocean and the S China Sea and accounts for roughly twenty-five % of global shipping.

“When you're going through the Strait of Malacca, you can’t tell me that a Navy destroyer doesn’t have a full navigation team going with full lookouts on every wing and additional people on radar,” said Jeff Stutzman, chief intelligence officer at Wapack Labs, a New Boston, New Hampshire, cyber intelligence service.

“There’s something more than just human mistake going on because there would've been a lot of humans to be checks and balances,” said Stutzman, a former information warfare specialist in the Navy.

Ten American sailors are still missing.

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, didn't regulation out cyber intrusion or sabotage as a cause of the lethal collision. “No indications right now ... but review will consider all possibilities,” Richardson said in a tweet on Monday.

It’s not the first time the Navy has suffered such an accident.

On Jan. thirty-one, a guided missile cruiser, the USS Antietam, ran aground off the coast of Japan. On May nine, another cruiser, USS Lake Champlain, was struck by a S Korean fishing vessel.

In the wee hours of June seventeen, a destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, a $1.5 billion vessel bristling with electronics, collided with a container ship, resulting in the deaths of seven sailors. The commanding officer and two other officers were formally removed from duties.

“I don’t have proof, but you've to ponder if there were electronic issues,” Stutzman said.

Todd E. Humphreys, a Prof at the Univ of TX and expert in satellite navigation systems, echoed a similar concern: “Statistically, it looks very suspicious, doesn’t it?”

These irregularities are affecting the shipping industry too.

In a small noticed June twenty-two incident, someone manipulated GPS signals in the eastern portion of the Black Sea, leaving some twenty ships with tiny situational awareness. Shipboard navigation equipment, which appeared to be working properly, reported the location of the vessels twenty miles inland, close an airport.

That was the first known instance of GPS “spoofing,” or misdirection.

Much more serious than jamming, spoofing interferes with location even as computer screens proposal normal readouts. Everything looks normal – but it isn’t.

“We saw it done in, I'd say, a really unsubtle way, a really ham-fisted way. It was probably a signal that came from the Russian mainland,” Humphreys said.

Such spoofing once required expensive equipment and deep software coding skills. But Humphreys said it can presently be done with off-the-shelf gear and easily attainable software.

“Imagine the English Channel, one of the most highly trafficked shipping lanes in the world, and also subject to horrible weather. Hundreds and hundreds of ships are going back and forth. It'd be mayhem if the right team came in there and decided to do a spoofing attack,” Humphreys said.

The U. S. military uses encrypted signals for geolocation of vessels, rather than commercial GPS. Humphreys said there is number indication that faulty satellite communications were a culprit in the USS McCain accident.

Global shipping also was disrupted following a worldwide attack June twenty-seven that hit hundreds of thousands of computers. Shipping giant A. P. Moller-Maersk was reduced to manual tracking of cargo amid the attack, and its chief executive Soren Skou this mo announced losses of up to $300 million.

Most global trade occurs on the high seas, and the no of ocean-going ships has quadrupled in the past quarter century. Ships are also getting larger. The largest container ship presently can carry more than 21.000 20-foot containers.

Autonomous ships operated by computers are on the near-term horizon. The world’s first crewless ship, an electric-powered vessel with capacity for one hundred to one hundred fifty cargo containers, will start a 37-mile route in southern Norway with Ltd crew following year, transitioning to full autonomy in 2020.

Most ships avert collision through the utilize of a global protocol known as Automatic Identification System, or AIS. Beacons aboard ships convey vessel name, cargo, course and speed, and readouts aboard ships display other vessels in the vicinity.

But the AIS system is known to be vulnerable.

“You can send an AIS beacon out and claim just about whatever you like. You can create a phantom ship appear,” Humphreys said.

It’s not just cargo carriers that rely on GPS and AIS beacons.

“Passenger shipping organizations and cruise lines … can be easily impacted,” said Eduardo E. Cabrera, chief cybersecurity officer at Trend Micro, a Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm.

Other factors can cause breeches on shipboard systems. Stutzman said crews rotate constantly, meaning shipboard log-on procedures are frequently ordinary and shared widely. Moreover, ship crews frequently download quantities of movies, books, and music while onshore to fight boredom while at sea, frequently linking to onboard networks and exposing them to viruses.

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