GPS Vulnerability of Cyber Attacks in the Shipping Industry

How much would you freak out if your Amazon Prime order would take over a week to be delivered? Check out this discussion to find out more about GPS vulnerabilities and related concerns about the impact on international shipping trade.

Global Positioning System (GPS) Vulnerabilities

GPS Cyber Attacks in the shipping industry would cause billions of dollars in damage to the world’s economy. Just how vulnerable are the GPS systems in the shipping industry? Enigma Forensics CEO Lee Neubecker and Geary Sikich, Principal of Logical Management Systems, report on a GPS Cyber Attacks on maritime shipping lanes. Together, they analyze the vulnerability and offer solutions to thwart cyber attacks.

Check out this video to view a Realtime GPS Cyberattack

Transcripts of Video Follows

Lee Neubecker (LN): Hi. I’m Lee Neubecker and I’m back here with Geary Sikich on my show, thanks for coming back on Geary.

Geary Sikich (GS): Thanks Lee for having me. I appreciate it.

LN: So, what do you want to talk about today?

GS: Well, we can talk about transportation issues, we can talk about Coronavirus issues related to anything and everything.

LN: How about the cyber attacks that you were talking about earlier that took place in some of the cargo shipping.

GS: Yeah, I was just going to mention that we’ve had a number of incidents over, well, since March that I think would’ve occurred regardless of Coronavirus or not, but we’ve seen more and more shipping being attacked in cyber attacks with ransomware, with other types of interference. So, we’ve seen an uptick and there’s a lot of vulnerability and susceptibility within the shipping industry in that regard. They just had one this week.

LN: Yeah. You know, you brought that up and I remembered there’s a video I want to share with you.

GS: Mm-hm.

LN: Back when the USS McCain underwent a cyber attack, well, they had a collision, and I speculated that it was a cyber attack. I want to just show you the clip and see if you see what I saw. Hold on just a second, share screen. Okay. Got the screen on. This is an AIS video which is posted, it shows commercial traffic.

GS: Mm-hm.

LN: And I’m going to jump forward to what we see here at this point in time. This is the USS McCain which is not on the commercial public tracking system, and the blue line here is actually the Alnic which changes course at the last minute and collides. So I’m going to play it real quick. You can see the Alnic.

GS: Ooh.

LN: Okay, what did you notice happen at the precise time of the collision?

GS: Well he went almost directly at the ship. It was like a 90 degree turn.

LN: Yeah, watch it one more time here. And so it was minutes before the course changed. Many of these cargo ships are under, you know, autopilot GPS drive.

GS: Mm-hm.

LN: Now, I want you to look, I want you to look right here. See this ship here? Run Hang 98?

GS: Mm-hm.

LN: That’s a Chinese ship. It’s within, it’s within Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS spoofing range of the Alnic. And now watch at the exact time of collision. It disappears. You see that?

GS: Wow. And–Yeah, that’s kind of…

LN: Yeah, so, anyway, I reported this previously to the Department of the Navy at the time but there were a number of incidents happening that made it look like these vessels under autopilot were having, at the last minute they were suddenly changing course and colliding into ships. So this whole GPS hacking is still, you know, still a real risk, and that’s why now, you know, the military said that this was an issue with the men on deck not paying attention to what’s around them, but at the time, I don’t think that the Navy expected friendly cargo ships to suddenly collide towards them.

GS: Yeah, to veer off course like that.

LN: On short notice. So, I suspect now that the Navy has protocols to help anticipate this type of thing happening and to protect our servicemen.

GS: Mm-hm. That kind of goes along with the studies that they’ve done on the utility side of the house with the generation equipment. Your converters, your, you know, the big boxes that essentially transfer power from power plant to the grid system. And they’ve seen that you can take those over via the cyber for, you know, the cyber window if you will.

LN: We even had the issue with the Boeing Max 8’s when they were having all those problems. And the chip that was inside the plane is a combination hybrid chip that’s both electromechanical and digital, and if you, if you direct sound waves at that chip, at the natural frequency of the chip, you can cause the chip to malfunction or even be damaged. So it’s possible that a sonic attack was launched either while the plane was on the ground, to damage that chip, or it could even happen in air. So I suspect that, you know, the Max 8 is undergoing rigorous testing before they bring those back up.

GS: Yeah, I would think that that’s got to be, I mean, just the entire cyber perspective, it’s got to be an area where private sector and public sector need to coordinate and, you know, share information, but also figure out a way to begin to protect. Now, the interesting aspect with this is that I talked to a couple of colleagues recently, former military, and they’re all saying now that there is a developing new strategy where instead of being reactive that the US may become proactive, if you will, and preempt a lot of attacks. So they may become more aggressive in terms of cyber security in an offensive way versus a defensive way. Which is really interesting because at what point does that become so expansive that we find ourselves, you know, locked in a cyber conflict.

LN: Yeah, like let’s take the GPS, the potential for GPS hacking is there.

GS: Mm-hm.

LN: By having multi-antenna detection systems, you could have on the front of a vessel and the back of the vessel, you could have two antennas attached to a computer, and if it detected a sudden change over in the GPS coordinates that didn’t align with the distance between the two, you could know that that vessel’s in a region where someone’s screwing with GPS. And then, if you have enough vessels with this technology, you could triangulate and locate the source of the emission. And that would be something that could be proactive to identify are there vessels out there on the water that are emitting and trying to overpower the global satellite GPS signals with local signals? And that would be very useful to know because you could track down, you know, the source. And it doesn’t mean that the, the source ship might not even know that their equipment’s compromised. So, it’s a lot more complicated that simply assuming that the vessel generating the signal, that the operators of that vessel are behind the attack.

GS: So, it would be wise to not sync them right away .

LN: That would be good. Well thanks for being on the show. I appreciate it.

GS: Thanks Lee for having me. It’s a great topic. I’m sure that this is going to get much more press over time.

LN: Yep. Take care.

Contact Tracing APPs are they ethical?

Are Contact Tracing APPs ethical? Are you willing to give up your private data to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus? Check out what these experts have to say!

Contact Tracing is it Ethical?

Apple and Google have the capability that allows cell phones to communicate with each other. Contact Tracing Apps use this capability and have been developed to find and alert the contacts of people infected with the Coronavirus / COVID-19. As soon as someone gets sick with Coronavirus, the APP could alert you if this is someone you have been in contact with. Alleviating the length of time it takes for a real live Contact Tracer who is doing the tracing. Basically, this is widespread human GPS tracking, that presents many privacy issues involving potential data breach, information storage, and sharing sensitive personal data. Should sensitive medical information and individual locations be available on an APP? Do you believe this type of electronic contact tracing is ethical?

Check out this video to listen in on experts as they consider the amount of data that is being collected and what it means for your data when you download a Contact Tracing APP.

Video Transcripts Follow

Lee Neubecker (LN): Hi this is Lee Neubecker from Enigma Forensics and I have Debbie Reynolds back on the show, thanks for coming back Debbie.

Debbie Reynolds (DR): Thank you for having me, very nice to be here.

LN: So I’m very interested to hear more of what your research is regarding contact tracing apps, and what you think that means for individuals that might put these apps in their phone. Tell me a little bit about what’s happening right now with the industry and how contact tracing apps are working.

DR: Yeah, so Apple and Google created a capability so that phones can communicate with each-other via beacon. So that they can store information on phones, or have phones bounce off of one another, so that if someone downloads a contact tracing app or registers there, if anyone who also has the app, it will be able to trace back, y’know, how long they spent with certain people and tell them whether they feel like they may have been exposed in some way, and tell them either to quarantine or go seek treatment in some way, or get tested. So it’s pretty controversial, the contact tracing app, for a couple of different reasons. One is, people are very concerned about privacy, like giving their potential medical information to a company that’s not a medical provider, meaning that they’re not protecting the data the same way. Also, as you know, Bluetooth technology isn’t exactly super accurate in terms of the distance that you are from someone, so the delta, in terms of how accurate it can be, may be way off. It may be several meters off, the phone can’t tell if you’re six feet apart or whatever, so I think that they’ve tried to tune that up with this new API that they created, but still, based on the science, we don’t know that it’s actually accurate or not.

LN: So you could still have a situation where, if you put one of these apps on and you’re outside biking, and you bike within 8 to 10 feet of someone who later does have it that you’re getting notified that you have to quarantine on a false basis. That’s a potential outcome of using an app like that, correct?

DR: Yeah, but I think that the way they having it now is that it’s supposed to register you spent more than 15 minutes near that person, so, y’know.

LN: Okay, that’s good to know.

DR: But let’s say you’re parked in your car and someone’s parked next to your car, so you aren’t physically near, y’know, you aren’t in any danger from that person but you wouldn’t know, just because your phone says you’re close to them. They don’t understand the circumstance that you’re in, to be able to tell that, so. I think people are concerned about, a lot about privacy, them taking the data or how the app is actually going to work, and it’s going to work differently in different countries. So what they’ve done is create this API, this capability that’s put on everyone’s phone, and then if you download the app, the app which you use will use that API to actually do this beacon exchange on people’s phones. So, that’s kind of what’s happening right now, is different countries and different places are implementing it in different ways, and some are really pushing back on them because they don’t have really any good guarantees about privacy, or data breach, data breach is a huge issue.

LN: Yeah, I mean, our Government’s never had data in their custody compromised ever, right? wink..wink

DR: Right, that never happened, exactly, so-

LN: You’re having your maps of where you’re walking, your GPS records-

DR: Yeah.

LN:time of day, your movement and that is going to Google and Apple, and under certain conditions they’re passing that data on to the CDC or other entities, law enforcement, enforcement groups.

DR: Well their concern is that data, because it’s at a private company, will get merged with other things, like let’s say your insurance carrier, or your medical, y’know, you get dropped from your insurance because you have this app-

LN: You drive too fast.

DR: No because you have this app, and they think that you may have been exposed, or you’re a higher risk, or a bank doesn’t want to give you a loan or something, because you have this app on your phone. I’ve been hearing a lot of different scenarios people are concerned about. But I’m curious, from your perspective, in terms of how certain things are stored on phones. I know beacons is a really big idea, but maybe you can explain a little bit about how Bluetooth actually works?

LN: Yeah, well Bluetooth is a near band wavelength that allows for peer-to-peer networking. Bluetooth has been exploited in the past to be able to take over devices, so it’s, a lot of people don’t like to have their Bluetooth on continuously because you’re opening your phone up to potential attacks, cyber attacks, via Bluetooth. You’re also broadcasting, when you have Bluetooth on you’re also broadcasting your MAC address identifier, your Bluetooth unique address and there have already been issues where retailers in London at one time, they had kiosks outside that would track the shoppers and they’d know how long they were at certain stores, and they’d use that information to serve custom video ads to people as they’re shopping and walking by.

DR: Right.

LN: So there’s privacy implications and security implications of having Bluetooth on all the time.

DR: Yeah, and that’s a big concern. So I know when I first heard this, about them doing this contact tracing, I was wondering like how exactly would they get the proximity right, and because we have no visibility to that we really don’t know, right?

LN: No.

DR: So we just have to sort of trust the black box and see what happens, to some extent, but I, for me I think my opinion is that contact tracing is a profession, it’s not an app. So, there are people who do this as a profession, only, let’s see, 55% of people in the world don’t even have smart phones, so you’re talking about a capability that’s only for 45% of the people, and not all those people are going to actually volunteer to get these apps.

LN: Yeah.

DR: So it doesn’t really help to contact, for people who do contact tracing, except it adds another layer that they have to work with because they still have to track people whether they have cell phones or not.

LN: It’s interesting stuff, thanks for bringing that to our viewers’ attention and thanks for being on the show again.

DR: All right, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

LN: Okay.

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