The article, by Anatoly Kurmanaev, highlights the Cyprus-registered tanker Reliant, which was observed taking on oil at a Venezuelan refinery last December. At the same time, however, the ship was reporting its position as some 300 nautical miles (about 500 kilometers) away, “drifting innocuously off the coast of St. Lucia.”
It’s illegal (under international law), but the rapidly-growing practice lets ships circumvent international laws and sanctions, the Times reports, and “could transform how goods are moved around the world, with profound implications for the enforcement of international law, organized crime and global trade.”
Its use has included Chinese fishing fleets hiding operations in protected waters off South America, tankers concealing stops in Iranian oil ports, and container ships obfuscating journeys in the Middle East. A U.S. intelligence official, who discussed confidential government assessments on the condition of anonymity, said the deception tactic had already been used for weapons and drug smuggling. After originally discovering the deception near countries under sanction, Windward has since seen it spread as far as Australia and Antarctica.
“It’s a new way for ships to transmit a completely different identity,” said Matan Peled, a founder of Windward. “Things have unfolded at just an amazing and frightening speed….” The spread of AIS manipulation shows how easy it has become to subvert its underlying technology — the Global Positioning System, or GPS — which is used in everything from cellphones to power grids, said Dana Goward, a former senior U.S. Coast Guard official and the president of Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, a Virginia-based GPS policy group.
“This shows just how vulnerable the system is,” he said.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.