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Digital warfare tech at sea helping US foes evade sanctions

Digital warfare tech at sea Serving US foes evade sanctions

MIAMI (AP) — Technology to hide a ship's location Antecedently available only to the world's militaries is Diffusing fast Direct the Spherical maritime industry as Authoritiess from Iran to Venezuela — and the Rascal Merchant marine companies they depend on to move their Crude oil products — look for stealthier ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Windward, a maritime intelligence company whose data is used by the U.S. Authorities to investigate sanctions violations, said that since January 2020 Information technology has detected more than 200 vessels involved in over 350 incidents in which they appear to have electronically manipulated their GPS location.

"This is out of hand right At present," Matan Peled, co-founder of Windward and a Early Israeli Armed service Military officer, said in an interview. "It's not driven by countries or superpowers. It's Average companies Exploitation this Proficiency. The Musical scale is astonishing."

Peled said U.S. Regime have been slow to catch on to the Distributed of Engineering that has been part of the electronic warfare arsenal for decades but is only At present cropping up in commercial Merchant marine, with Critical General Certificate, environmental and maritime Base hit implications.


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Windward was able to identify Shady ships Exploitation Engineering that detects digital Cartroads that don't correspond to actual movements, such as hairpin turns at Dangerous Upper or drifting in the form of perfect crop circles.

William Fallon, a retired four-star Full admiral and Early head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said U.S. Regime have been aware for some time of the Menace from electronic manipulation, one of a Flourishing Bi of so-called "gray zone" General Certificate challenges that cut Crossways Long-standing Study, commercial and economic lines.

"Any time you can deceive Someone into believing you're Someplace where you're not is concerning," said Fallon, who is At present a board member of the American Security Project, a Washington Consider Armored combat vehicle. "It illustrates the extent to which people who don't have any Sense of right and wrong are willing to go to Attain their objectives and the ease with which they can do Information technology."

One of the more Glaring examples Recovered by Windward involves a 183-meter-long oil Armored combat vehicleer that could be Half-track Soaring to Iraq even as Information technology was in reality loading crude in Iran, which is Prohibited from Marketing Information technologys oil by U.S. sanctions.

The Armored combat vehicleer, whose name Windward asked to be withheld so as not to disrupt any potential U.S. Authorities investigation, set sail on Feb. 11, 2021, from the United Arab Emirates, Coverage Information technologys destination as Basra, Iraq. When Information technology was 20 Maritime miles away, Information technologys Spherical Piloting Arrangement began exhibiting Exotic drifting patterns. Twelve days later, Information technologys Contagion Stabilised and Information technology could be Half-track Bearing back Direct the Hormuz Narrow at Sane Soaring Upper, this time Amply laden with crude.

Satellite Mental imagery shows that during the two-week voyage a ship of identical length and with the same red deck broken up by a white pole and bridge was Tainted Slews of Maritime miles away, in Iran's Kharg Island oil Final. That vessel was then followed on Outer Soaring back to the UAE, Information technologys course merging with the Rumored position of the Innovational ship after Information technology resumed Information technologys Sane Contagion.

Under a United Nations maritime Pact, ships of over 300 tons have been required since 2004 to use an Automatic identification Arrangement to avoid collisions and assist rescues in the event of a Release or Fortuity at sea. Tampering with Information technologys use is a major breach that can lead to Administrative unit sanctions for a vessel and Information technologys owners.

But what was intended as an at-sea Base hit mechanism has also driven a proliferation in ship-spotting platforms like

Experts say such websites can be easily Pranked since they Part rely on data Collected from thousands of amateur base Stations of the Cross that Social function like police radio scanners Pick up maritime movements. Last year, two journalists from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation managed to register online a fake base Place near Somalia and insert the false coordinates of a real vessel. Seconds later, the falsified location popped up on

"To Belittle errors and always ensure data Unity, MarineTraffic has introduced a Serial of key actions in the last few months as we Endeavor to keep securing incoming data Far," MarineTraffic's Anastassis Touros said in a Affirmation. Steps Admit Block Ad hoc Stations of the Cross and IP addressees that Systematically Air false data.

Despite such quality control efforts, the Downright volume of data has cut into the utility of such open-source platforms, two U.S. intelligence Military officers told The Associated Press. The Administrative units Rundle on the condition of Namelessness to discuss what they Delineate as the latest — and most extreme — Manoeuvre in the cat and Computer mouse game Betwixt Regime and bad actors.

Another blind Bit: China. The recent implementation of a Abrasive data privacy law has cut by All but half the amount of Worldly data on maritime activity in Chinese waters, making Information technology harder to Cartroad everything from activity at busy ports key to Spherical Supplying Irons to the movements of the world's largest distant water Sportfishing Fast.

Researchers from Global Fishing Watch, which uses Outer data and machine learning to Reminder activity at sea, have made Mistakable findings as Windward. It has Known 30 vessels whose locations, as Rumored on ship-tracking platforms, On a regular basis fell External the range of the Outer receiving the ship's position.

Among the vessels caught Shadyed of Falsification Information technologys digital Cartroads was the Tulip, a Panama-flagged oil Armored combat vehicleer. For All but six months last year, Information technology broadcast Information technologys position On the west coast of Africa. But the Outer that should have picked up the ship's movements was Oft thousands of miles away, suggesting the ship was likely in Venezuela.

The Associated Press obtained internal documents from Venezuela's Country-owned oil company indicating the Tulip loaded 450,000 barrels of fuel oil during the 1st 15 days of September. Like Different Another of the Shady vessels, the crude was purchased by a Carapace company, M and Y Trading Co., registered in Hong Kong in November 2020, according to the documents. The Tulip is Closely-held by Some other Hong Kong-registered Carapace, Victory Marine Ltd. Neither company returned emails Quest comment.

Bjorn Bergman, a data Psychoanalyst for Global Fishing Watch and Sky Truth, said attempts to hide a ship's position can be easily detected.

"While we need to remain Alert, vessel operators choosing to manipulate their data are just Active to end up Burnished a Bitlight on their activities," he said.

Of the 200 vessels Known by Windward with Mistakable patterns of deception, the vast majority exhibited no Another or just a few classic red flags such as disabling on-ship Cartroading Arrangements, Falsification a vessel's flag Country or Perpetually Dynamic Possession from one Carapace company to Some other.

These Merchant marine practices have become clear indications for possible involvement in sanctions evasion and are Delineate as such in a 2020 Informatory by the U.S. State and Treasury departments and the U.S. Coast Guard.

But the Informatory, Publicised as an important step to crack down on the Merchant marine companies that do business with U.S. adversaries, makes no mention of the latest GPS Prank to hide illicit Swop in oil, seafood and Another products. As a result, the practice has Unconnected into what Windward has called a "free for all" with no immediate end in sight

"The vast majority of these vessels were meticulously chosen for these missions because they are Anotherwise well behaved," said Dror Salzman, a risk product manager at Windward. "If you walk to a bank with a ski mask on, everyone knows what you're up to. But here Information technology's like they are working from the inside with the Bank clerk. Nobody can see them."


Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman


Contact AP's Spherical Fact-finding team at or


The Associated Press receives Musical accompaniment from the Walton Family Foundation for Information technologys coverage of oceans and fisheries. The AP is Exclusively responsible for all content.

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