Is The U.S. Navy Being Hacked?


Here's a scary thought: what if the recent collisions involving United States Navy ships are the result of being hacked by a foreign enemy?

On Monday, the USS John S. McCain crashed into a commercial ship in the Strait of Malacca, ripping a huge hole in the destroyer's side and leaving five sailors wounded and ten missing. According to reports, the crash stemmed from a sudden outage on board that briefly left the ship without its steering capabilities. The ship's steering power mysteriously returned to normal right after the crash.

This is prompting some cybersecurity experts to theorize that the crash may have been caused by a hack: (H/T: International Business Times)

“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances,” Jeff Stutzman, an ex-information warfare specialist in the Navy, who now works at a cyber threat intelligence company, told McClatchyDC.

"When you are going through the Strait of Malacca, you can't tell me that a Navy destroyer doesn't have a full navigation team going with full lookouts on every wing and extra people on radar," he said.

Itay Glick, the founder of cyber security firm Votiro, told news.com.au that the possibility of cyber interference was the first thing that came to his mind when he heard about the incident.

“I don’t believe in coincidence,” Glick told the website.

There's also this, from Wired:

To prevent collisions, ships are supposed to use an automatic identification system to broadcast their locations to other vessels. Navy ships can turn this off for operational reasons, so investigators also will look into why a collision warning didn’t alert the two ships in time.

Adding to the suspicion that hacking may be involved is the fact that the USS McCain crash was the fourth such incident to plague the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet in the span of a year. The USS Louisiana, USS Lake Champlain and USS Fitzgerald have all been involved in crashes over that timeframe, and all while stationed in Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

The Seventh Fleet is America's largest Naval force in that area of the Pacific and is key to maintaining America's interests in the region. Presumably, that would make the fleet a prime target for the Chinese. The Strait of Malacca, where the John S. McCain's crash happened, is also an important route for China: the country is reliant on that waterway for oil trade with the Middle East.

Navy Admiral John Richardson tweeted that there is no evidence yet the crashes have been caused by hacking, but it is something they're looking into:

All that said, the Strait of Malacca is an incredibly narrow waterway that results in a lot of traffic which puts ships at a higher risk of crashing, so it's possible that the McCain fell victim to the Strait's many perils. But if they were hacked by the likes of China and Russia, it would be a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the president immediately.

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