MI6 fears Iran used Russian GPS tech to send UK tanker off course

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With British intelligence services MI6 and GCHQ checking whether Iran used Russian GPS “spoofing” technology, which produces incorrect location data, to send the British-flagged Stena Impero off course into Iranian waters, one question is: could this be true?

According to British media, the UK’s intelligence services think Iran might have used cyber penetration to get the ship off course to give IRGC forces an excuse to seize it.
If the Islamic republic did use the GPS spoofing technology, it would be the first time that it has publicly demonstrated that level of advanced capabilities, but top US and Israeli cyber officials have been talking about Tehran’s ever advancing abilities now for years.

The next question, if in fact Iran carried out such a cyber attack, would be whether it did so independently or whether Russia helped either with the specific operation or whether general cyber capabilities transfers by Russia helped the Islamic republic achieve this new “high.”

“Russia has the technology to spoof GPS and may have helped Iran in this venture as it was extremely brazen,” said an anonymous security source in a report published by the Daily Mail. “It would make British shipping extremely vulnerable and will be of grave concern to Royal Navy warships in the region.”

In June, the Israeli Airports Authority announced that pilots were having difficulty landing, experiencing mysterious disruptions.

Senior Israeli officials said that they believe that Russia had been disrupting civilian aircraft navigation systems, according to reports. Army Radio called the move a “hostile attack.”

According to the Israeli Airline Pilots Association, the GPS issues were part of a “spoofing” attack, causing receivers on planes to sometimes report their location as miles away from their actual location, reported CNN.

A report by the US Center for Advanced Defense Studies in April documented over 10,000 separate incidents of GPS disruption connected to Russia, adding that the country was “pioneering” the technique to “protect and promote its strategic interests.”

Russia has denied the report.

To resolve the issue, Israel sent a defense official to Russia to discuss the disruption, Army Radio reported.

Russia’s first infamous cyber attack was on Georgia in 2008 when it disabled whole swaths of Georgia’s government and state functions operating with electronics.

Since then, Russia has been accused of cyber attacks on countries throughout Europe, of using cyber abilities to meddle in the 2016 US presidential elections and Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman even alluded in February to it attempting to interfere in Israeli elections.

Iran started doubling its efforts in the cyber domain after it realized in 2010 that, according to foreign reports, the US and Israel had managed to use cyber attacks to substantially sabotage its nuclear program, setting it back two years.

In June, top US homeland security cyber official Christopher Krebs told the Jerusalem Post that all Americans were now potential cyber targets of Iran in one form or another and that Tehran had significantly increased cyber attacks on the US.

He said that Iran’s latest attacks were “particularly vicious” because they are sometimes not mere attacks to deface websites or collect information, but also sometimes to completely wipe out a target’s hard drive.

Some questions cannot be fully determined without access to the ship itself, but top government cyber officials in the US and Israel have explained to the Post that even the best Russian and Iranian hackers sometimes leave behind forensic cyber traces of their hacks.

For example, if you dig deep enough into where a hack came from, at some point mistakes in English previously made by Russian or Iranian agents, or even actual code in Russian or Iranian, can be discovered.

The US, Israel and England are not without their own cyber abilities. The US has hacked deep into Russia’s infrastructure with cyber booby traps to deter further adventurism and in the past hacked ISIS’s communications to send their troops into ambushes, while the Post reported in 2015 that Israel already had the ability to hack Hezbollah’s computer guided rockets.

Iran’s Fars news agency said the IRGC had taken control of the Stena Impero on Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored.

The vessel, carrying no cargo, was taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Its 23 crew members – 18 of them Indians are expected to remain there while the accident is investigated, Iranian news agencies quoted the head of Ports and Maritime Organization in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, as saying.

The Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, is the sole outlet for exports of most Middle Eastern oil, and the seizure sent oil prices sharply higher. The United States, which tightened sanctions against Iran in May with the aim of halting its oil exports altogether, has been warning for months of an Iranian threat to shipping in the strait.

England has threatened a variety of responses, but has not yet come forward with a specific one, just as Boris Johnson emerged as the country’s new prime minister on Tuesday.

Source » jpost

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