Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Concerns that Baltimore incident was a cyberattack

Less than a day after a huge cargo vessel crashed into the Francis Scott Bridge in Baltimore, severing a major artery and putting one of America's most important ports out of action, some have suggested the incident was the result of a deliberate cyber attack. Six people, who were working on the bridge at the time of the incident, have been declared missing presumed dead. Two others were rescued, one of them in serious condition and who is being treated in hospital.

But focus has now shifted to recovery and determining the cause of the crash.

Authorities have dismissed the notion of the incident being a terrorist attack, though the investigation only began late in the day on Tuesday 26th March, hours after the vessel had struck the bridge bringing the entire structure into the water.

Power issues

Video from a web streaming camera showed that prior to the impact, the cargo vessel appeared to lose and regain power several times. Thick smoke was also seen to issue from a funnel just moments before the ship hit the bridge.  

Twenty two crew, all said to be Indian nationals, according to WION, were on board at the time, though it is not known how many would have been active at the time given it was making sail soon after midnight.

Cyberattack theories

While it is of course possible that the crash was merely a catastrophic accident, it could have also been a deliberate cyber attack.

Mitags, a website focused on maritime risk management raises a number of key risks concerning cargo vessels. One particular aspect, key to this incident, concerns "Propulsion, Machinery & Power Control Systems" which could be vulnerable to cyber attacks. "Since electronic programs control the physical actions of the ship, they can fall victim to a cyber attack and threaten ship control," the website claims.

"Cybersecurity has never been more critical to the marine sector. We depend on electronics for everything from vessel navigation to maintenance, and their proper function is essential to protect crew and vessel safety."

"As maritime technology advances, electronic OT — Operational Technology — systems that physically control the ship are being integrated with IT — Information Technology — systems. As vessels update their systems to more advanced, electronically controlled components, they'll need to increase their vigilance because IT systems can be attacked and controlled by outside parties."

This does not prove that the Baltimore incident was a cyber attack. But it does at least suggest it as a possibility.

Online conspiracies

Journalist Laura Logan is adamant that the crash was a direct result of a cyberattack. "I don't believe in coincidences," she says, while pointing to the facts that - deliberate or not - the incident has severed a major route for hazardous materials, eg petroleum, chemicals etc., and will cause major disruption for months. The I-695, that was cut when the bridge collapsed, is an auxiliary route of the I-95, a conduit running some 3,096 km along the eastern seaboard.

The closure, which could run into many months, if not years, will seriously affect the estimated 35,000 vehicles that traversed the bridge every day. Commercial vehicles carrying materials that are prohibited in the tunnel crossings, including recreation vehicles carrying propane, will now have to plan on using the I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) between Essex and Glen Burnie. This will add significant driving time [CBS]. There will also be significant disruption to shipping as other ports are forced to take up the slack.

There are around six cargo vessels that are stuck in the Baltimore harbour, as well as a number of navy ships and dozens of smaller vessels. But the knock on effect of the tragedy that occurred on the 26th March could be disruptive and costly.

Such issues were raised by Logan in a discussion with Steve Bannon on America's Voice  a right-wing to far-right streaming, cable and satellite television channel [Wikipedia].

Logan is seen as controversial for her backing a number of conspiracy theories, and Bannon too has been much criticised for his right wing political leaning. Well known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has also speculated the ship was struck by a cyber attack.

And such theories have flooded the Internet concerning the collision [Newsweek].

While the White House has dismissed such theories, a cyberattack should not be immediately dismissed even if it is mostly being promoted by well known conspiracy theorists.

Past cyber attacks

Cyber attacks against shipping have occurred before. In fact the US military were last month reported to have launched a cyber attack on an Iranian ship according to NBC [YouTube].

The report claims an Iranian military ship that had been collecting intelligence on cargo vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, was targeted.

And according to Cydome, an Israeli startup which develops maritime cybersecurity solutions, cyber attacks have been targeted at a number of ships over the last few months [Cydome].

In fact according to Cydome maritime cyber attacks are on the rise with one said to occur every three days on average.

Previous reports have also highlighted the risk. While most cyber attacks have tended to be ransomware demands some are far more worrisome.

Ships at sea are susceptible to cyberattacks. Modern navigation relies on positioning systems, which has led to fears of jamming or altering location coordinates. An activity called spoofing refers to sending false data to navigation systems. In 2013, a test verified the possibility of spoofing a cruise ship's navigation system [Psiaki M. L. and Humphreys T. E. (2016) Protecting 'PS From Spoofers Is Critical to the Future of Navigation]. Two alleged but unconfirmed incidents, both involving a large number of vessels, have occurred; in 2016 near South Korea, and in June 2017 in the Black Sea.

In two other incidents, serious hacker involvement is suspected. In 2010, an oil rig on a voyage from Korea to South America suffered a delay of 19 days due to a system shutdown off the coast of Africa [Kaspersky Lab (2015) Maritime industry is easy meat for cyber criminals / Reuters].

And in February 2017, a German containership reportedly lost control of its navigation systems for 10 hours while sailing from Cyprus to Djibouti [KIISKI - PDF].

Spoofing & hacking

A spoofer's ability to overtake aeroplanes or ships to induce a crash might be something akin to a James Bond plot - see for example Tomorrow New Dies - but it is fast becoming a reality [Spectrum].

The Baltimore incident comes within days of reports that the Chinese have launched a series of serious hacking attacks against both the US and UK, something China denies [Guardian / BBC]..

But the coincidence of timing may not be lost on some.


It has been reported that the 'black box' has been recovered from the Singaporean registered Dali cargo vessel.

It may be that the official explanation will be something mundane as a technical fault. But this will not likely silence the theories circulating online [Daily Mail].

Whatever the cause, it will take some time to clear the channel. The salvage might take several weeks. But as for replacing the bridge, that could take years. The original bridge took five years to construct in the early 1970s.

Accident or attack, the effects of the incident will last for some time to come.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Royal family in turmoil amidst rumours & conspiracy theories

If reports seen across the pond are to be believed, the house of Windsor could be at an end. There are growing concerns not only for King Charles III, but also his wife Queen Camilla and his daughter in law Catherine, the Princess of Wales. Information concerning the Royals is difficult to substantiate, nut the secrecy surrounding the family and recent bizarre press releases from the palace have only helped fuel rumours and conspiracy theories.

The ailing King

In recent weeks, US tabloids, amongst a number of other international media outlets, have reported that the King's health is far more serious than has been reported to the British public. British newspapers have thus far only reported the official line that the monarch is suffering from prostate problems and a 'form of cancer'.

However, the National Enquirer is amongst a number of publications that have reported that the King has pancreatic cancer and less than six months to live.

Whilst first reported in the Enquirer, the story has been picked up by a number of other publications, though the news has been largely hidden from the British public.

Internet searches in the UK fail to bring forth links to such sites but if using a VPN - which circumvents country restrictions - the same searches result in dozens of links leading to the concerning reports about the British monarch [BoingBoing / Magzter / The News pk / BTimes].

The National Enquirer's report could be easily dismissed given its history as being a sensationalist supermarket tabloid magazine. But it has often been right about its claims though it has also had to settle various lawsuits [Wikipedia].

Even if one dismisses the headlines concerning the type of cancer and the seriousness of the King's condition there are little reported nuggets of truth within the National Enquirer's reporting. The publication states that Dr Michael Dixon, known for his strong beliefs in homoeopathy and faith healing, is overseeing Charles' treatment [Guardian].

The National Enquirer's sensationalist report came just 20 days after it was announced King Charles had been diagnosed with "a form of cancer" which had prompted many news stations to flip to saturation coverage of the news for several hours despite few facts being known.

That announcement on the 5th of February came at the same time that Kate Middleton had also been admitted to hospital for unspecified 'abdominal surgery'.

Secrecy fuels conspiracies

The secrecy, vagueness and the warning off of press photographers by Kensington Palace as they camped outside the hospital where she was being treated, has only fuelled speculation, rumours and conspiracy theories.

As a high profile royal, Kate Middleton's admission to hospital was bound to draw much media attention. As such dozens of press photographers gathered daily outside the clinic where she was being treated. But, in what was seen by many members of the press as unwarranted control, representatives from Kensington Palace demanded to see press passes and later issued a warning to the major agencies that they would be dropped from future royal rotas should they not leave. This despite the media gathering being situated in a public space.

"Sadly, despite us sharing the wishes of the Prince and Princess that they'd like privacy at this time, yesterday we saw a significant number of photographers stationed outside the hospital. I have spoken directly to the respective photography agencies and picture editors of those present and reminded them if they continue to be there they will not be accredited by Kensington Palace for the foreseeable future. I'll allow those of you who did have photographers down there yesterday, to pick that up with your picture editors. However, in the knowledge my plea will fall of deaf ears and in the spirit of openness I always employ – and again, not for reporting but for guidance only, the Wales children will not be visiting The London Clinic this weekend, so I strongly discourage anyone from stationing themselves there." the full statement said.

As a result many agency photographers were withdrawn leaving only freelancers and the so-called paparazzi.

Where's Kate?

That was in the third week of January and until March there had been no sighting of the future Queen. Then a photograph emerged purporting to be Kate Middleton sitting in the passenger seat of an Audi being driven from Windsor alongside her mother. The picture, distributed by the photo agency Backgrid was extremely grainy which appeared to have been added in post-production given the emergence of a clear picture just hours later.

The picture only fuelled further speculation. The woman seemed to be of fuller face than Kate and the clear frame appeared not to show Kate's distinctive mole above her right lip. The fact that she was wearing larger dark shades created speculation amongst some that the person was in fact her sister Pippa.

The picture however was hidden from the eyes of the British public with only a few news outlets even reporting on the claim that the Princess of Wales was seen in public for the first time since her operation. Indeed the picture was only used in foreign publications, most notably the American tabloids [TMZ / HarpersBizaar / TimesNowNews /  LTN].

Mother's Day fiasco

Moving on just a week and the waters were further muddied after Kensington Palace released a picture of Kate and the three children on Mother's Day. Several major agencies that were distributing the photograph soon withdrew the picture and issued a kill notice saying that the picture had been digitally manipulated [BBC].

There was no immediate statement forthcoming from Kensington Palace, resulting in conspiracies and rumours becoming even more out of control. What, if anything were they, 'the firm', trying to hide? Then around twelve hours after the picture was killed by PA, AFP, Reuters and Getty, a statement was released via Twitter. "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day. C" However, occasionally experimenting with editing does not explain the strange anomalies that appear in the photograph particularly with the hands of the children such as contorted hands and a missing thumb as well as inexplicable blurring or smearing of certain parts of the photograph.

The photograph released on Mother's Day in the UK was clearly manipulated with sometimes inexplicable photoshop techniques. There have been more questions than answers concerning the release of the photograph fueling a plethora of conspiracy theories. While some are clearly outlandish and easily dismissed others are less easily explained. One theory swirling on social media platforms suggested that the picture was a composite including the pasting of Kate's head from a 2016 cover of Vogue which bears a striking similarity to that in the controversial Mother's Day picture [Daily Mail].

Following the publication of the photograph, press photographers captured what was reported to be Kate leaving the Windsor estate, sitting in the back of a vehicle with Prince William as he headed for a Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey. Yet given her face is turned away from the camera there are many who are still unconvinced it was even her. There was also no clue as to where she was supposedly headed with no statement forthcoming from Kensington Palace.

Grim US reports

US tabloids have already painted a dark picture, suggesting everything from a possible cancer diagnosis to eating disorders and even suggesting domestic violence within the family.

Of course, these reports are based solely on unofficial leaks and rumours. But Kensington Palace is doing nothing to allay these reports. Moreover, their secretive and clumsy media management has only fuelled the fire.

Further confusion has been sown after Kate Middleton's name was removed from an event on 8th June 8, soon after the British army announced she would attend.

Discounting the controversial Mother's Day picture and the two paparazzi pictures, Kate Middleton hasn't been seen in public since Christmas 2023, and Kensington Palace had not released any photos or videos of her until Sunday 10th March.


Her absence has caused a social-media firestorm as royal watchers questioned her whereabouts and condition online. However, the palace said she was doing well as recently as 29th February.

Outside of social media, the mainstream media, especially in the US, are having a field day with the issue surrounding Kate Middleton's whereabouts.

The Daily Show makes light of the recent photoshopped picture and Kate's taking responsibility for the mistakes [Twitter / YouTube]. Meanwhile Stephen Colbert also made fun of the situation and joked about a rumoured affair between Prince William and Sarah Rose Cholmondeley, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley [Twitter] something that has been little reported in the UK [MSN].

If the stories in the US tabloids are to be believed, the Royal family is all but finished. According to the National Enquirer and The Globe, Camilla faces a possible double mastectomy due to cancer, Kate has a whole number of health issues and may even divorce the future King. And William's coronation may well be sooner than expected with plans reportedly being made for a state funeral for the current monarch, King Charles III.

Sources 'familiar with the situation' say that major picture agencies are already making plans for a state funeral later this year, tvnewswatch was learned.

More bad news ahead

Meanwhile, there may be further bad news in the coming months for the Royal family. There are several royals that are well into their 80s and 90s. As such it is only a matter of time before the likes of the Duke of Gloucester, 79, Princess Alexandra, 87, the first cousin of the late Queen, her brothers Prince Michael of Kent, 81, and the Duke of Kent, 88, as well as the Duchess of Kent, 91, pass on.

The furore concerning Prince Andrew has yet to be laid to rest [Sky News] although he has been more visible in recent months with suggestions he has been repositioning himself within the royal family [Daily Mail].  

Tragedy has already struck in recent weeks with Pippa Middleton's ex-boyfriend, Thomas Kingston being found dead at his parent's home in Cotswolds Village in England, on 25th February. Kingston, 45, was apparently found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, though Internet conspiracy theories abound suggesting foul play.

A private funeral was held, away from the glare of cameras, with only a select few in attendance, amongst them the Prince of Wales, the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra alongside Lady Gabriella and Mr Kingston's family [BBC / Sky News].

Whatever the truth is concerning the King's health, that of Queen Camilla, Kate's health and whereabouts as well as the state of the relationship between her and the future King, Prince William, the public are certainly questioning the honesty and future of the Royal Family.

tvnewswatch, London, UK