The United States is considering whether cyber attacks might have been responsible for a spate of collisions involving US warships in Asia, including two deadly ones.
Experts believe that human errors and coincidence are not plausible explanations given the security systems of the US Navy and the logistics of having two ships converge, although some others believe otherwise.
On Monday, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship off Singapore, leaving 10 sailors missing.
The sailors are feared dead as US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift has announced that divers searching for the missing service members have found human remains in the warship.
On the same day, US Naval Operations Chief Admiral John Richardson said some kind of outside interference or a cyber attack was not unlikely.
“We’re looking at every possibility,” Richardson said, when asked about the possibility of a cyber attack, adding “as we did with Fitzgerald as well.”
Also, Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, did not rule out sabotage in the incident, saying they are examining all possibilities.
“We are not taking any consideration off the table,” he told reporters in Singapore Tuesday.
Itar Glick, head of Israeli-based international cyber security firm Votiro, said the incidents suggest that US Navy ships’ GPS systems could have been tampered with by hackers, leading to them miscalculating their positions.
“I think that hackers could try to do this, and if they are state sponsored they might have the right resources to facilitate this kind of attack,” he told AFP.
Also, Jeffery Stutzman, chief of intelligence operations for US-based cybersecurity firm Wapack Labs, told AFP that he was “very doubtful that it was human error, four times in a row.”
In June, another guided-missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Seven US sailors were killed in that collision.
Following the latest incident, US officials reportedly said Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the US Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, might be relieved of command.
“An expedited change in leadership was needed,” a US official told Reuters late on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.