Naval Collision Raises Concern of Cyberattack and Hunt for Back-up System

Aug. 26, 2017  |  By Chris M. Roberts

An estimated 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea, and shipping lanes have become increasingly crowded. Unlike aircraft, ships often lack a back-up navigation system. If GPS ceases to function, they can easily run aground or collide with another vessel. As ship operators explore back-up options for satellite navigation in the age of cyberattack, some are eyeing World War II radio technology as a possibility for communication.

IISP Analyst Chris M. Roberts: "This month, the U.S. Navy suffered its fourth collision this year in the western Pacific.  While a cyberattack has not been attributed to any of the incidents and, in fact, already has been discredited by many, it must be investigated at a much deeper level. A Reuters article highlights the shipping industry’s reliance on GPS for navigation, but it fails to mention that most ships rely heavily on GPS for collision avoidance too -- especially those without sophisticated radars. Dependency on GPS is nothing new as backup systems have been proposed for more than a decade now, but not widely deployed. Other navigational aids to the shipping industry, such as AIS (Automatic Identification Systems), also have been proven susceptible to spoofing. Therefore, it’s too early to rule out any chance of a cyberattack. It seems more logical, to me at least, that someone is messing with the navigational aids of these ships rather than the notion that captains in a relatively small region suddenly have forgotten how to properly navigate."


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