Cyber interference against vessels in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (2019)
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|Date||Between May and July 2019.|
|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.|
|Target||US and UK commercial and Coast Guard ships operating in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman.|
|Target systems||Maritime navigation systems; Automatic Identification Systems (AIS); and bridge-to-bridge communications systems.|
|Method||GPS spoofing, i.e., tricking ships’ receivers with counterfeit satellite automatic identification signals generated to gain control of a maritime navigation system; 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. 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.|
|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.|
|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. Following these incidents, a joint effort was set up by the US and the UK to protect shipping in the area, and US-flagged ships were instructed to notify both the US and the UK when transiting the region.|
|Analysed in||Scenario 16: Cyber attacks against ships on the high seas|
Collected by: Giulia Carlini
- “Shipping Industry Faces GPS Disruption in Persian Gulf”, 7 August 2019, Satelles.
- US Department of Transportation – Maritime Administration, “2019-012-Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Red Sea-Threats to Commercial Vessels by Iran and its Proxies”, July 2019.
- S Westall, “U.S. tells commercial vessels to send Gulf transit plans in advance”, Reuters.
- MW Bockmann, “Seized UK tanker likely ‘spoofed’ by Iran”, 16 August 2019, Lloyds List.
- R Pickrell, “Iran is reportedly jamming ship GPS navigation systems to get them to wander into Iranian waters”, 8 August 2019, Business Insider.
- R Browne and B Starr, “US government warns of Iranian threats to commercial shipping, including GPS interference”, 7 August 2019, CNN.
- JE Barnes, “U.S. Cyberattack Hurt Iran’s Ability to Target Oil Tankers, Officials Say”, 28 August 2019, The New York Times.
- B Mueller, “U.K. Joins U.S.-Led Effort to Protect Ships in Strait of Hormuz”, 5 August 2019, The New York Times.