Cyber interference against vessels in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (2019)

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Date Between May and July 2019.[1]
Suspected actor Unknown. According to a warning issued by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), ‘Iran and its [p]roxies’ were involved in some of these incidents.[2]
Target US and UK commercial and Coast Guard ships operating in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman.[3]
Target systems Maritime navigation systems; Automatic Identification Systems (AIS); and bridge-to-bridge communications systems.[2]
Method GPS spoofing, i.e., tricking ships’ receivers with counterfeit satellite automatic identification signals generated to gain control of a maritime navigation system;[4] and spoofing AIS and/or bridge-to-bridge communications in order to falsely claim the identity of another vessel.
Purpose The disruption of ships’ navigation systems was allegedly aimed at sending vessels off course into Iranian waters to create an opportunity for Iranian forces to seize the vessels.[5] The spoofed communications were allegedly used by unknown entities to falsely claim to be US warships or to disguise Iranian military vessels as merchant ships.[6]
Result GPS interference and AIS spoofing operations sent vessels off their course into Iranian waters, which resulted in the seizure of several vessels by the Iranian forces.[2][4]
Aftermath These incidents occurred in the context of heightened tensions between Iran and the US, which reportedly included cyber attacks carried out by the US against Iranian cyber capabilities.[7] Following these incidents, a joint effort was set up by the US and the UK to protect shipping in the area,[8] and US-flagged ships were instructed to notify both the US and the UK when transiting the region.[2]
Analysed in Scenario 16: Cyber attacks against ships on the high seas

Collected by: Giulia Carlini