Expert warn system to track ships out at sea can be hacked

boats tracked story

Experts are saying that the system used to track sea vessels is outdated and can be easily hacked, according to BBC News.

The technology under investigation is the Authentic Identification System, or AIS for short. It is used to track where ships are in the oceans and due to international maritime law is  mandatory to have in ships that are over a specific size. AIS shows a ship’s location and also any relevant information, and it is believed that Somali pirates, for instance, have been using it to know exactly which ships are the most profitable to target.

These issue have been brought up by researchers who work at Trend Micro, which, according to their website, is a company that develops content security and threat management solutions, and try to make it safe for businesses to exchange digital information. The company was founded in the United States in 1988 and has its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

Rik Ferguson, who works for Trend Micro, told the BBC News, “it boils down to the fact that the protocol was never designed with security in mind. There’s no validity checking of what’s being put up there.”

According to BBC News, the researchers used equipment that cost roughly $700 euros, which is $957 American, and with this equipment they were able to intercept signals and spoof the system to make vessels appear that weren’t really there. The AIS broadcast is also public, and designed when the tech required to hack it was too expensive for common use. Though now it can be accessed with a standard internet connection.

Luckily, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, who provide business information in global maritime and trade communities, according to their website, captains are able to to turn the system off if they feel it could be a threat to the crew. Though this method is just a stopgap measure at best, and the creation of a new more up-to-date tracking system is the best course of action.

[via BBC News, Trend Micro, Lloyd’s List Intelligence, image via BBC News]

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