Studies of researchers revealed that about 100 warship locations, including the British carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, have been faking their automatic identification system (AIS) positions since August 2020.
In their studies, Wired, SkyWatch and Global Fishing Watch said that the naval ships, including the UK’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and the US destroyer Roosevelt, might have had their AIS position faked.
According to the researchers, the altered data showed that the warships had been entering disputed maritime territories or nearing the naval bases of other countries. Experts warned that such faked movements of the vessels may potentially endanger amicable relationships between many countries.
The environmental groups discovered the false data after comparing the uses of the AIS with verifiable position data.
Their investigation revealed that all of the altered information had been coming from shore-based AIS receivers while satellites showed the real positions of the naval vessels.
“It was alarming when I realized there were a lot of other vessels also showing this unusual AIS profile,” Bjorn Bergman, a data analyst working for SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch, said in a statement. “A lot of people like to take pictures of naval vessels and post them online. I found examples where vessels were leaving or entering areas that seemed pretty impossible.”
Bergman said that they have been investigating this to further understand how the information is being falsified and altered and what experts can do to detect and correct the data.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense also confirmed that this is not the first time it was able to detect the alteration of a British warship’s AIS position.
“We are aware of [the] manipulation of AIS tracking data placing Carrier Strike Group vessels in areas where they were not,” a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement. “There was no operational impact on any of the vessels, but AIS is the commercial global safety system for all marine traffic. Any manipulation could result in a serious incident.”
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