THE IMPACT ON THE MARITIME PICTURE BASED ON AIS

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Data Corruption

Data corruption refers to errors in computer data that occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission, or processing, which introduce unintended changes to the original data. Computer, transmission and storage systems use a number of measures to provide end-to-end data integrity, or lack of errors.

In general, when data corruption occurs, a file containing that data will produce unexpected results when accessed by a system or related application; results could range from a minor loss of data to a system crash.

 AIS Satellite data is no exception. As the number of vessels on the water has increased, as well as the amount of data being transmitted, satellites are more and more overloaded, resulting in more corruption, more noise and more errors. Many of these errors go unnoticed, leading to undetected distortions in the final results.

Not only is the AIS data corrupt, it is not encrypted, identified or validated by any other party.

Deliberate Manipulation of AIS Data

AIS data has critical vulnerabilities when used to track ships, and ‘off label’ use of the system. The data is increasingly manipulated by ships that seek to conceal their identity, location or destination for economic gain or to sail under the security radar.

Manipulation practices are varied, and range from Identity Fraud, to Obscuring Destinations, ‘Going Dark,’ Manipulating GPS, and ‘Spoofing’ AIS. Ships that manipulate AIS undermine not only their own data, but the entire maritime global picture -- once some of the data is corrupt, all data is suspect.

Further undermining the quality of the data, there are no information assurance mechanisms in place to ensure that ship transmissions are, indeed, accurate. As a result, while ships are required to transmit information, there are myriad ways to conceal a ship’s identity and destination and the satellites that receive the data have no way of validating the accuracy of the information.

The Top Five Manipulation Practices Currently in Use 

Identity Fraud: 

Ships are increasingly transmitting false or stolen identifying marks, taking advantage of the AIS ‘honor system,’ as ships are required to transmit their information but there is no way to validate that data. This phenomenon is widespread, with 1% of all ships using fake identification information (called ‘IMO numbers’) over the past year, resulting in several hundred vessels ‘in disguise’ at any given time. This is akin to having over 1000 people going through John F. Kennedy International Airport each day using fake IDs.

Anyone tracking a ship via AIS data, whether a security organization or a New York-based hedge fund, has no assurance that the name on the screen does, in fact, correspond to the physical ship of interest. This rising trend poses a significant threat to maritime security.

Obscuring Destinations: 

Vessels do not report their next port of call more than half of the time. In fact, in our research, the final port of call was reported by ships, on average, only 41% of the time.

For anyone tracking global commodity flows – where commodities are heading, when they are expected to arrive – the missing final port data doesn’t just create an information gap, it could well be intentionally misleading, skewing the view of global commodity flows.

 ‘Going Dark’: 

The most commonly-seen manipulation practice is vessels turning off their AIS transmissions, with over one quarter of the vessels worldwide turning off their AIS at least 10% of the time, taking into account active shut downs vs. lack of satellite coverage. Large vessels (over 250m) are more likely than others to turn off their transmissions, suggesting that vessels engaged in global trade, and carrying the most significant amounts of cargo, have greater incentive to conceal their activities at certain times.

The simplicity of turning off AIS – similar to separating a battery from its cellphone to avoid tracking - is a challenge for both financial and security stakeholders, as it severely undermines their ability to track vessels and monitor areas.

 GPS Manipulation:

AIS transmitters do not provide GPS validation. Therefore, whatever positioning data is ‘fed’ into the device is transmitted as the vessel’s position, regardless of the ship’s actual position. Within just the last year, from mid-2013 to mid-2014, there has been a 59% increase in the use of GPS manipulation.

Tampering with the GPS feed of AIS is a growing and concerning practice, likely to further evolve over time. It allows ships to suddenly ‘reappear’ in other parts of the world – similar to a plane flying over Miami manipulating its GPS so that it appears to air traffic control and other parties to be flying over Seattle - making it extremely difficult to know a vessel’s actual whereabouts.

 Spoofing AIS: 

As previously shown in important research by Dr. Marco Balduzzi and his team at Trend Micro, AIS can be ‘spoofed’ and inserted into the data stream, allowing people to create ‘ghost ships’ where none exist.

 If ‘ghost ships’ are created, these false entities can negatively impact the maritime situational picture, particularly in areas of conflict.

Taken together, these findings paint a troubling picture of the scope and magnitude of this growing trend, with implications for both intelligence and business organizations worldwide.

Incentives and Implications for Shipping and Finance 

Shipping and trading have been traditionally opaque markets, with little public data available. And global commodity flows over the oceans have huge economic value: Global crude imports in 2013 were over $2,823B, with half transported by sea. The financial trading on this volume is estimated by the EIA to be nine times larger than the transport value. Total coal export sales in 2012 amounted to $128.692 billion, with approximately 98% shipped by sea. Total exported iron ore sales in 2012 were $125.474B, the majority shipped by sea.

As such, the introduction of AIS data holds huge potential for traders, informing both micro-level analysis - what a given ship is carrying and where it is headed – and the evaluation of macro-level trends, such as the expected oil supply for a certain country or imports and predicted growth in specific regions.

However, the economic incentives for various players to intentionally obscure the picture by manipulating AIS data are vast, as any edge, fundamental or tactical, can potentially have tremendous economic value.

Trading decisions are only as good as the data they rely on, and this axiom is particularly true for trading based on data-driven models and quantitative analysis, which require a high level of data reliability. Valid AIS data gives traders a strong, reliable foundation for their trading strategies; conversely, invalid, intentionally manipulated data can have a significantly negative impact on trading decisions and outcomes.

AIS manipulation has three main implications for the Finance world:

  • Distorted View of Commodity Flows 

Understanding commodity flows is directly linked to knowing the actual movement of ships, and flawed AIS data can create an inaccurate and misleading analysis of key metrics, such as how much of a given cargo is being transported by sea.

  • Flawed Understanding of Supply and Demand 

Freighting rates are determined by the supply and demand in specific ports and areas. Knowing how many ships are open in a specific port or which cargo has left port is extremely valuable information. AIS data that is able to ‘hide’ ships or cargoes and obscure destinations can have tremendous economic impact by affecting the perception of supply and demand.

  • Impact on Trading Models 

Trading models that are data dependent are designed to account for expected data deviations. However, because AIS data is being manipulated and there is no validation mechanism in place to control the phenomenon, there is no way of knowing the actual scope of the false data and adjust models accordingly. In addition, the method of ‘counting ships,’ prevalent to date as a way to gauge cargo and commodity flows, is increasingly unreliable. As companies build bigger ships with greater cargo capacity in order to increase efficiency, the potential impact of missing any single ship is getting more and more significant.

Incentives and Implications for Security and Law Enforcement 

In just a decade, AIS has gained a pivotal role in the day-to-day operations of many security and law enforcement agencies, from Navies to Coast Guards to Customs and Intelligence agencies. Today, AIS data is integrated into many national systems for controlling and enforcing laws in their exclusive economic zones, enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness and promoting safety at sea.

But AIS manipulation has a tremendous impact on governmental agencies, as it obscures some of the key activities they seek to monitor including smuggling, terrorism, immigration, sanction violation, illegal fishing, oil bunkering, safety issues and even militarized conflicts. For agencies tracking these activities, the challenge is identifying specific ships of interest while continuously monitoring large sea areas in real time to respond to emerging threats. There are four main implications for security and law enforcement:

  • Trust No One 

AIS data cannot be trusted ‘as is’ as it is increasingly manipulated by the very parties security and law enforcement agencies seek to monitor. Once some of the data is flawed, none of it can be trusted. Effectively using AIS for maritime control and security requires the ability to continuously vet vessel transmissions in order to identify the ‘bad guys’.

  • Ghost Ships 

AIS can be manipulated to insert fake ships into a country’s maritime situational picture. For example, hackers can make military vessels ‘appear’ near a sensitive region, potentially heating up a border and elevating geopolitical tensions.

  • Erasing Digital Footprints 

Ships are able to actively erase their digital footprints, removing evidence of the ship’s activities, and even leave a false evidence trail. Efforts to monitor a given area are severely damaged when valid information on a ship is non-existent or intentionally misleading.

  • Undermining Watch Lists 

Watch lists are one of the most common tools of maritime security and law enforcement, enabling authorities to be on the lookout for specific vessels of interest, cargoes and crew members based on prior intelligence. By concealing identities and activities, the effectiveness of watch lists decreases dramatically.

AIS Manipulators: The Early Adopters 

Another significant concern is the overall growth of AIS manipulation. Today’s AIS manipulators are the ‘early adopters’ of a tactic for gaming the system. Some of the early adopters may include Chinese fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing, large shipping companies seeking to maintain market opaqueness, oil tankers circumventing international sanctions, and large oil producers concealing oil via floating storage in order to affect global oil prices. This group will likely be followed by far more ships seeking to conceal their information in the future.

This growing trend is likely a direct reaction to ships’ growing awareness that they are being ‘watched’ via AIS transmissions and the incentive on the part of some players to preserve opaqueness by misreporting.

Small Numbers with an Outsized Influence 

While AIS manipulation is on the rise, most AIS data is accurate. However, the relatively small group of AIS manipulators have an oversized impact, since they are likely the very ships (people) that have the incentive to manipulate the data.

Game of Chance 

Looking forward, perhaps the greatest implication of these findings is that AIS is becoming a ‘Game of Chance,’ with players making major decisions based on data they believe is accurate, while the reality is that this data – particularly the ‘interesting’ data – is, and will increasingly be, influenced by players with conflicting interests.

Conclusion – AIS Fraud Detection 

Decisions are only as good as the data they rely on. AIS manipulation is a fast-growing, global trend undermining decision makers who rely, unknowingly and unwittingly, on inaccurate and increasingly manipulated data.

As regulation increases, we expect to see ever-growing amounts of AIS data, with ever declining quality, as ships become aware that they are being ‘watched’ via their AIS transmissions and employ the varied mechanisms discussed above, and others that will surely come to light, to avoid detection. We can no longer afford to take AIS at ‘face value.’

In 2008, satellites revolutionized the industry and provided visibility on ships off shore for the first time in history. It is now time to again employ technology to make sense of this data and ensure that it is a reliable, valid source of information for decision makers worldwide. It is time to employ AIS Cybersecurity countermeasures to stop AIS from becoming a game of chance.

Data Corruption

  1. Data corruption refers to errors in computer data that occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission, or processing, which introduce unintended changes to the data.
  2. As the number of vessels on the water has increased, as well as the amount of data being transmitted, satellites are more and more overloaded, resulting in more corruption, more noise and more .
  3.  

Deliberate Manipulation of AIS Data

  • AIS data has critical vulnerabilities when used to track ships.
  • AIS data cannot be manipulated by ships that seek to conceal their identity
  • Ships that manipulate AIS undermine not only their own data, but the entire maritime global picture -- once some of the data is corrupt, all data is suspect.
  • Further undermining the quality of the data, there are no information assurance mechanisms in place to ensure that ship transmissions are, indeed, accurate.
  • Satellites that receive the data can validate the accuracy of the information.
Check all the correct statements.

The Top Five Manipulation Practices Currently in Use

  • Ships are increasingly transmitting false or stolen identifying marks, taking advantage of the AIS ‘honor system,’ as ships are required to transmit their information but there is no way to validate that data.
  • 19% of all ships use fake identification information.
  • Vessels do not have to report their next port of call unless they've been specifically requested to do so by the owner.
  • Over one quarter of the vessels worldwide turn off their AIS at least 10% of the time,
  • It's really complicated to turn off the AIS transmitter, but for criminals it's worthwhile not to get caught.

Incentives and Implications for Security and Law Enforcement

  • Today, AIS data is integrated into many national systems for
    controlling and enforcing laws in their exclusive economic zones, enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness and promoting safety at sea.
  • But AIS manipulation has a tremendous impact on governmental agencies,
    as it obscures some of the key activities they seek to monitor including smuggling, terrorism, immigration, sanction violation, illegal fishing, oil bunkering, safety issues and even militarized conflicts.
  • For agencies tracking these activities, the challenge is identifying specific ships of interest
    while continuously monitoring large sea areas in real time to respond to emerging threats.

AIS Data

  • AIS can be manipulated to insert fake ships into a country’s maritime situational picture.
  • Ships can't erase their digital footprints.
  • Players make major decisions based on AIS data they believe is accurate, while the reality is that this data – particularly the ‘interesting’ data – is, and will increasingly be, influenced by players with conflicting interests.
  • Decisions are only as good as the data they rely on.

Definitions

TW =  are defined as the belt of water that extends, at most nautical miles (NM) from the shore. These waters are considered to be territory of the state

EEZ =  extend from the outer border of the territorial waters, to a maximum distance of NM. Coastal nations have control of all the resources inside its EEZ

 

Definitions

  • A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land.
  • The port waiting area is only used by vessels after finishing cargo operations at port.
  • Vessels pay a fee to the port while anchored in the waiting area.
  • In shallow water, vessels lower their anchor and become stationary, except for wind and current that allow movement around the anchor.
  • Liquefied Natural Gas tankers must keep moving to support the vessel’s mobility systems.
  • Service Vessels in the Port Waiting Area display much back and forth movement as their typical behavior in the PWA.
  • A vessel can take on fuel by sailing alongside of a moving or anchored bunkering oil tanker. Service vessels, such as tugboats can assist in keeping the vessels side-by-side when they are unanchored.
Check all of the correct statements.

Waterways

  • Waterways refers here to straits that usually connect the high
    seas to EEZs or to other parts of the high seas.
  • The responsible government sets the regulations
    for operations through and around the waterway.
  • If more than one government has authority over the straits, the vessel will contact all those to get passage approval,
    and time of passage, if there is a queue.

Transshipment

  • Transshipment of cargo between merchant vessels is an alternative for in-port operations.
  • It’s usually cheaper and saves time compared to in-port operations.
  • Some vessels are too big to enter specific ports, so smaller vessels engage with them in order to eventually transfer the cargo to the port.
  • Bunkering is an illegal activity related to fueling ongoing vessels in sea.

Fishing Reefers

Fishing vessels can spend periods of time at sea, so they often transfer the to refrigerated vessels, so they don't have to go to shore to unload.