Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
BLACK FRIDAY DEAL: Trust the World's Fastest VPN with Your Internet Security & Freedom--A Lifetime Subscription of PureVPN at $48 with coupon code "BFRIDAY20" ×
Security The Military Privacy Transportation United States Technology

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks (thenextweb.com) 397

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Early Monday morning a U.S. Navy Destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore. The U.S. Navy initially reported that 10 sailors were missing, and today found "some of the remains" in flooded compartments. While Americans mourn the loss of our brave warriors, top brass is looking for answers. Monday's crash involving the USS John McCain is the fourth in the area, and possibly the most difficult to understand. So far this year 17 U.S. sailors have died in the Pacific southeast due to seemingly accidental collisions with civilian vessels.

Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked? In essence, what if GPS spoofing or administrative lockout caused personnel to be unaware of any imminent danger or unable to respond? The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) says there's no reason to think it was a cyber-attack, but they're looking into it: "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities," tweeted Adm. John Richardson. The obvious suspects -- if a sovereign nation is behind any alleged attacks -- would be Russia, China, and North Korea, all of whom have reasonable access to the location of all four incidents. It may be chilling to imagine such a bold risk, but it's not outlandish to think a government might be testing cyber-attack capabilities in the field.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks

Comments Filter:
  • Conspiracy theories activate!

    • This is like the opening act that sets the scene in a disaster movie.

      Also, NEVER let a Senator drive the submarine!
      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @07:42PM (#55067195)

        A good conspiracy theorist would not squander his credibilty by getting basic facts wrong, like saying a collision occurred in the "Pacific southeast" when it actually occurred north of the equator in the Western Pacific. The Southeastern Pacific is off the coast of Chile, about 16,000 km away, or roughly halfway around the world.

    • by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:53PM (#55066345)

      tesla autopilot is to blame
      google map update caused the issue
      Trump whined to Putin after McCain blocked the health bill
      China warns US of what will happen if they don't get more islands/territory
      India/Micorosoft windows 10 update/virus mishap
      North Korea... err ummm they did something that caused something because they are highly capable

      well its a start.
       

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Remember the US carrier fleet commander who got into an argument about who should change course with a lighthouse?

      I figure it's much more likely that the captain demanded the traffic (driven by or for nignogs, clearly, it's the middle east) change course and played chicken with a tanker that has no chance of complying due to their massive size.

      • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

        That was a joke, reworded many times and debunked even more times.

    • They have that covered in spades.

      Maybe the biggest threat to the US is... The US.

    • by Excelcia ( 906188 ) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @07:36PM (#55067161) Homepage Journal

      There is no single hack that should work to cause an accident like this. It doesn't matter if GPS is hacked or even off. It doesn't matter if your navigation system is faulty or given the wrong information. It doesn't matter if your radars are down. The fact of the matter is, ships have been navigating in congested waters at night for hundreds of years and there is no hack that should serve to cause a collision.

      Bridge watchkeepers are supposed to be trained in heads up visual navigation. GPS, ECPINS, AIS, navigation radars - they are all useful tools, but a watchkeeper is supposed to be trained to know when those tools are lying to to them. Because it really isn't a matter of if, but when something will happen to cause one or more of those tools to lie to you. This is especially true of warship watchkeepers who are supposed to be trained to operate in places where there may be denial of service for GPS or where AIS is being spoofed.

      I wrote about something like this before [slashdot.org] - almost two years ago. American warships have a reputation in NATO as being driven by amateurs. During fleet manoeuvers, the rest of us actively plot wider safety bubbles around American ships because they are erratic and have a tendency to simply go the wrong direction and just not care.

      This isn't a cyber attack. There is no attack on anything on the American ship that should have defeated the watchkeeper's mark 1 eyeball, and hacking a container ship to hit a warship with is like hacking a semi truck and thinking you are going to use it to ram a dirt bike on an open field. It's simply not possible to hit a warship with a container vessel if the warship has a watchkeeper that is awake.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:14PM (#55067713)

        American warships have a reputation in NATO as being driven by amateurs. During fleet manoeuvers, the rest of us actively plot wider safety bubbles around American ships because they are erratic and have a tendency to simply go the wrong direction and just not care.

        That's because the *are* piloted by amateurs (relatively speaking).

        A merchant marine captain will spend his entire life in the same career track, building on and enhancing his skills. A Navy captain will have gone through extensive training in school, then work his way through various specialties (engineering, communications, weapons, etc) before he finally gets his command, so he's got much less experience as a merchant marine captain. And even when in command, he's responsible for hundreds of sailors instead of the dozen or two that a merchant vessel would have.

  • Why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:26PM (#55066155)

    Isn't there someone on the deck looking for other ships in the vicinity?

    Just saying??

    • Re:Why (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:41PM (#55066255)

      Yeah, without further evidence, it sounds to me more like incompetence than an attack. Why was someone not watching out for any approaching ships, and able to manually take control to avoid them? Reminds me of the old joke about the navy captain and the lighthouse.

      Furthermore, while the possibility of GPS spoofing makes sense, if a cyber attack on the boat itself is even possible, then that's a problem. The Internet of Things is a bad idea for toasters and refrigerators; it manages to be an even worse idea for warships.

    • by PaulBu ( 473180 )

      Or a radar running continuously and when there is a blip on the screen alerting someone? I would imagine that a rogue sub willing to attack the navy ship is not going to be broadcasting its coordinates...

      Paul B.

    • Re:Why (Score:5, Informative)

      by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:55PM (#55066749)
      There are 3 things preventing collisions at sea: 1-the warship has navigation radar. 2-the warship has bridge wing lookouts looking for ships, and ships have lights at night. 3-the civilian ship is also looking around. Yes, an American warship is running windows and is therefore an insecure environment, and could be hacked. But that won't stop the bridge wing lookouts from seeing the other ship coming, and a warship is much more agile (and faster) than a (much larger) cargo freighter. The Law of the Sea says the larger ship has right-of-way, so there is no dispute over who must get out of the way.
      • Re:Why (Score:4, Informative)

        by houghi ( 78078 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @11:27AM (#55070285)

        The Law of the Sea says the larger ship has right-of-way, so there is no dispute over who must get out of the way.

        No, it doesn't. There are clear rules who has right of way.
        If you are in a small vessel, it is WISE to go out of the way, as you can maneuver better than a heavy ship. It does not mean it has right of way.

        It starts with the fact that a commercial vessel has right of way over a commercial vessel. Next there are very specific maritime laws that determine who has right of way. (No vessel ever has absolute "right of way" over other vessels. Rather, there can be a "give way" (burdened) vessel and a "stand on" (privileged) vessel, or there may be two give way vessels with no stand on vessel)

        A simple explanation of how stupid it would be is that you have NO idea how heavy a ship is. A smaller ship in length can easily be heavier than a much larger ship and you have no way of knowing.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] for a very basic idea and links to the rest.

        As this very basic idea is wrong, I need to assume that you also have no idea about the rest.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Should be a proper look out and be using other means. Radar and lookouts.
      A lot of ELINT and SIGINT in the area?
      Computer issues don't alter the role of people been on duty and having to look around.
      A testing phase should have found most computer related work that needed to be corrected.
  • ...Windows for Warships? based on XP if memory serves? I wonder when they were patched last?

    • They may have been stuck in a forced upgrade to Windows 10, and were in the process of rebooting when the collisions occurred. Could Microsoft have ignored the Navy's desires not to upgrade to Windows 10, i.e., taken the Navy's dismissal as an OK to do so?
      • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:38PM (#55066645) Journal

        They may have been stuck in a forced upgrade to Windows 10, and were in the process of rebooting when the collisions occurred. Could Microsoft have ignored the Navy's desires not to upgrade to Windows 10, i.e., taken the Navy's dismissal as an OK to do so?

        "Ready fire control! Bogies off the port bow!"

        "I can't, sir. All the screens say 'Hi. We're setting things up for you'".

  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:26PM (#55066159)
    Have the considered it's not a state actor but a rich media mogul who's causing the accidents to extend his media empire? If only there were dashing British secret agent to stop this dastardly villain's evil plans.
    • Could it be Larry Ellison? Has his yacht been seen in the vicinity, or is it docked inside his inactive volcano base?

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:28PM (#55066177)

    Any military power using anything from Microsoft.

  • Except (at least for the last 2 boats I saw) they were hit midship. If they had been hacked I'd have expected the GPS hacking to steer the ships INTO other ships - not vice versa - which would require a higher level of control.
    • Well, I would think it's easier to hack a civilian ship than a warship - so I'd imagine they're considering that possibility as well.

    • perhaps the other vessels involved were the alleged hacking targets, with the intention of causing grief for a US military vessel... I find it easier to believe a commercial vessel would be easier to hack than a warship...
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Except (at least for the last 2 boats I saw) they were hit midship. If they had been hacked I'd have expected the GPS hacking to steer the ships INTO other ships - not vice versa - which would require a higher level of control.

      No no no, it's not hacking the ship itself. That's hard. You hack the wetware, because that's easier.

      You cyberattack the crew instead - perhaps sending messages to their phones that their girlfriend is about to break up with them. Or you invent some new addictive game so their eyes ar

  • Windows for Warships, baby.
  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:37PM (#55066223) Journal

    On a big ship no one is relying on GPS alone.
    Every ship has a magnetic compass.
    A helmsman should realize if the compass heading ans speed versus the GPS position makes any sense.

    Then again: during daytime a big civilian (freight!) vessel is like a mountain. It is extremely hard to overlook it.

    During night time, the whole deck of big ocean going vessles is illuminated by flood lights.

    Unless in fog, IT IS COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERSEE IT

    And then we have radar .... so if the ship got "hacked" the only option are hacked bandanas on the eyes of the watch and a hacked radar system.

    The latter would be a story, though.

    • This was a horrible dereliction of duty by the destroyer, but I've seen hundreds of cargo ships at night in the open ocean and none of them have had any lights beyond the minimal navigation lights mandated by the coast guard.

      It takes some getting used to how giant ships can appear "out of nowhere" in good visibility with an attentive watch.

      It is really challenging to navigate through congested areas, even with good equipment. I would expect the navy to have the best procedures, training, and personnel but
      • I would expect the navy to have the best procedures, training, and personnel but in several cases lately they have fallen short.

        You left out "equipment," and if you only read the headline you'd know that it is one of the suspects.

  • Definitely not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:38PM (#55066225) Journal

    Any nation-state with the ability to hack software that would influence the most powerful warships in the world would not be doing so for farts and giggles over the course of months to cause a few (in the scheme of things) relatively minor collisions during peace time. They would reserve this cyber weapon for use when it really counted. If this was the result of a lone wolf hacker they would have sold this weapon for a huge amount of money to any of the countries that would want them to use against the US when needed, not risking its discovery messing around with it just for fun.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      FWIW there were also reports of ships in the Black Sea being "out of position" for several days. I didn't read of any accidents, but GPS hacking was suspected.

    • If some large nation has the ability to confuse US Navy ship navigation for an advantage in a war then would they not want to test it before, you know, having their own navy sunk in an all out war?

      If this is the action of a "lone wolf" that wants to sell this to such a powerful nation, to get an advantage in a war, then would they not have to demonstrate it to sell it?

      This was something of a tactic used by the USA to remove all doubts of their military and technological capability, they'd show off once, the

  • does anyone else remember the "flagship US airforce carrier" that, back in the mid 1990s, had to be TOWED into harbour... because it was running Window NT 4.0 systems... which had just crashed across the *entire* ship? and does anyone else remember soldiers running Sony BMG Root-kitted CDs which then illegally sent out a listing of CLASSIFIED FILENAMES OFF TO SONY'S SERVERS?? do we not remember these things??

    there is a *really good reason* why the NSA refuses to permit windows systems on its premises. why

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:06PM (#55066439)

      It's a shame that you only remember the rumors and myths instead of finding out the facts. The aircraft carrier you're referring to is the USS Yorktown, which did suffer computer-related problems around 1997. But if the problem was just that the OS crashed, they could have just rebooted the damn thing!

      The actual problem was a crew member entered a 0 into a field in a network database, causing all of the software using the database to fail after attempting to divide by 0. The ship was dead in the water for under three hours and returned to port under its own power.

      In other words, this was a problem with the software running the ship, not the OS! Considering that most bugs are in the software running on the OS and not the OS itself, this should not be a surprise.

      dom

      • You're thinking of a different incident.

        It was a battleship, not a carrier.

        And yes, it did indeed require towage back to port.

        • You're thinking of a different incident.

          It was a battleship, not a carrier.

          No, the USS Yorktown, CG-48, is a Ticonderoga-class cruiser. The US doesn't have any battleships in service, and didn't in 1997 when the incident occurred. The previous USS Yorktown, CV-10, was an Essex-class carrier, which is probably the source of the confusion about CV-48's ship type.

          And yes, it did indeed require towage back to port.

          So claims Government Computer News. According to Atlantic Fleet, the captain and the contractor who was the source of the GCN story, it did not. The contractor said the reporter altered his statements.

          https://en.wikipedia.

      • WannaCry now?

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        a crew member entered a 0 into a field in a network database

        The first time the Navy has had a ship disabled by a zero [navalofficer.com.au] since WWII.

    • ... running an OS that's been cost-shaved by a company that REFUSES TO LET ITS SECURITY TEAM MAKE CRITICAL CHANGES because the Security Director is told, every single fucking time "your proposed security improvement will cost us money. get lost and come back when you have a quotes security quotes fix that actually makes us some money".

      ...

      Not off-topic here...

      That is what I think of every time I boot into Windows 8.1, which insists on telling me that I am exposing myself to danger (my fault) if I turn off the Microsoft-written and integrated "Windows Virus Defender" (or whatever it's called) from scanning and updating whenever it feels like doing so.

      I mean, really... Come on... The "antivirus protection" comes WITH the OS that I installed, and was written by the same company! It's basically a tacit admission that "we write bug-riddled cod

    • does anyone else remember the "flagship US airforce carrier"

      Wow, the Air Force has carriers now? I'll bet the Navy is really pissed about that.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:41PM (#55066257)

    This sounds like the basic plot from a half-dozen or so of the James Bond movies.

  • It's pretty tough to "hack" the sonar shack and operator. I suppose you might foul up communication between sonar and the bridge, but the Navy has a backup for that, too, including runners if necessary. And BTW, do they still have voice-powered phones on board?

    • The sonar operators are not normally working all the time in peacetime. They have sound powered phones for a handful of critical positions (helm) but not the sonar ops.
  • Early Monday, Indeed.

    The fishing vessel with no working GPS or radio, hit the navy ship mid port side. Oo

  • There's absolutely no evidence there was a cyber-attack.

    All we've had is a bunch of people speculating "cyber-attack" because it's a popular topic right now.

    The Navy isn't denying because they haven't finished investigating the accident and don't want to start publicly ruling things out. Maybe it will turn out to be a cyber-attack, but the currently available information is completely consistent with a dozen other scenarios that have nothing to do with a cyber attack.

    • The Navy isn't denying because they haven't finished investigating the accident and don't want to start publicly ruling things out.

      The military isn't the DMV, so that analysis falls short. Even after they finish an investigation, what they say to the public will be whatever they think is to the military benefit of the United States; they have no requirement to communicate openly or to hold public meetings, and they have no institutional theories telling them to be open and honest with information.

      Have you ever heard that carrots improve night vision? I did, all through school. Why? Was it because of science? No, it was because the mili

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @04:50PM (#55066331)

    A foreign state actor hacked into a US Naval Destroyer and with precision knocked out the steering to the ship at a critical moment where by it couldn't maneuver and was rammed by merchant vessel. And then moments later restored the steering to a working condition. Is that it? Do I have it right?

    As opposed to some mechanical/electrical malfunction happening at a critical moment causing said accident and the systems being manually reset after the fact.

    Yeah, right. Anyone who has ever worked with complex mechanical/electrical equipment knows that shit happens and that you don't need external actors to screw things up for you. And that goes without saying that the tropics are not an area that is conducive to nice, neat operations of equipment (consider the British destroyers that can't operate in the warm waters of the Middle East)

    So may I present exhibit "A". It's this sharp piece of metal in the form of a razor. Once owned by a chap named Occam.

    • A foreign state actor hacked into a US Naval Destroyer and with precision knocked out the steering to the ship at a critical moment where by it couldn't maneuver and was rammed by merchant vessel. And then moments later restored the steering to a working condition. Is that it? Do I have it right?

      No, but if you could read you'd know that no technical details are being discussed, only high level causality. Only an idiot would even be willing to make an exclusive list of potential exploit types, much less narrow it down one weak theory to use as a straw man.

      If you apply Occam's Razor, the explanation that accounts for everything you said with the least assumptions is that you're ignorant of the details, and yet you jumped to conclusions anyways. It seems to actually account for it without any assumpti

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        A foreign state actor hacked into a US Naval Destroyer and with precision knocked out the steering to the ship at a critical moment where by it couldn't maneuver and was rammed by merchant vessel. And then moments later restored the steering to a working condition. Is that it? Do I have it right?

        No, but if you could read you'd know that no technical details are being discussed, only high level causality.

        It was reported elsewhere earlier to day that the steering was lost and then regained.

  • So THATS what it looks like when Windows crashes on a warship..... it actually crashes the warship.

    I take naming rights for the malware .... "Titanic" , it turns warships into icebergs for civilian ships to crash into.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:00PM (#55066381)

    Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked?

    Coincidence? No.

    Could the boats have been hacked? yes - but it's incredibly unlikely.

    What other possibilities are there? The 99% reason is stupidity. Either some idiot doesn't know how to drive a boat ( x4) or the standard naval tactics to "dominate" any given situation have been taken to extremes - beyond the capabilities of the people and equipment in use.

  • Exhaustion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:07PM (#55066445)

    There is a culture of overwork that results in severe sleep deprivation in the US Navy, and many people standing watch are impaired at an equivalent level to beign legally drunk. It's been the confirmed cause of other incidents before, and it seems a far more likely explanation than cyber attacks. Unfortunately, the Navy does not appear to be doing much to solve the problem.

    • Re:Exhaustion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:27PM (#55066567) Homepage

      Ding! Ding! Ding!

      We have a winner. I don't give a damn about any stupid GPS spoofing, you don't run ships into each other unless the crew is so absurdly tired that they're literally sleeping on watch.

      This is well known, and a cultural issue through all the services, especially more recently. It has nothing to do with funding or politics or any other bullshit.

  • The first link in the Slashdot description is to a story about an incident from May (the wrong collision).

  • All a hacker would have to do is hijack the ship's wifi, and provide unlimited bandwidth to unblocked porn sites.

    It's the only explanation for nobody noticing those huge cargo ships...

  • A fairy tale starts with. "Once upon a time."

    A sea story starts with, "Hey, this ain't no shit."

    So hey ... this ain't no shit from a 9-year naval vet:

    Naval ships have collision warning systems.

    There's a "ding, ding, ding" to alert crew.

    That's when eyeballs gather around radar, and secret guy stuff.

    Also, the watch scans the horizon with binoculars.

    If collision systems are "frozen" or spoofed, it could be a "drunk walk" algorithm that increases the probability of a collision.

    My shipmates were never comfortabl

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @05:19PM (#55066529) Journal

    The buck stops at one of the 16 White House staff members who have been fired. But it definitely doesn't stop at the top. Trump's Navy has the most spectacular crashes. Big, beautiful crashes that we can all be proud of.

    If you can't stand the heat, stay off the golf course.

  • Having work military "certification" testing, the test are usually the most ideal conditions such that systems always passes. The test are usually set up just so it sorta works, the contractor gets paid and the military can say look at my new toy.
    My bet is on the navigation system/ radar system has a bug in which big ship under the right conditions just disappears from radar or the navigation system incorrectly plots the other ships vector.
  • can we strike North Korea back or will be seen as an 1st strike and chain be forced to help nk?

  • Employ an inertial navigation system on board that backs up the GPS. Alarm when difference is great enough. Then fly an aircraft at high altitude and see if it's GPS agrees with the surface ships. Spoofing an aircraft at altitude where its GPS antennas are directional to the 180 degree horizontal plane and upwards is tough. Laser gyro inertial nav is also resilient so ... easy to detect.
    • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

      Except that INS need to be recalibrated ever so often, and the rougher the conditions, the more frequently it has to be recalibrated. So you never rely on INS for your primary navigation system either.

  • My guess is that while the combat systems on these ships are awesome and they're probably also capable of awesome electronic navigation, but some kind of "not the Navy Way" mindset causes them to do things the old fashioned way and not rely on modern navigation systems when they're not feeling vulnerable.

    The combat radars are turned off and the information sections are probably lightly staffed at 3 AM in friendly waters. The rest of the crew is doing business as usual and navigating the old fashioned way

  • Cyberattack? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @06:41PM (#55066945)

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"

    These are warships, supposedly capable of detecting supersonic enemy planes on attack vectors as well as missiles, hundred of miles away and they are unable to detect a fucking container-ship as big as a skyscraper 50 yards away?

  • Here is a related article from one of the other collisions: http://www.reuters.com/article... [reuters.com]

        q[... the ship's commanding officer, executive officer and master chief, would be removed from the vessel because "we've lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead."]

  • This is Singapore and there's a lot of "activities" that sailors can partake in. They totally want some of those famous chili crabs and barley drinks. Maybe a walk along Orchard Road before taking in the bountiful and beautiful views from Orchard Tower.

  • Once is happenstance.
    Twice is coincidence.
    The third time itâ(TM)s enemy action.
    - Goldfinger

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"

Working...