Four tankers have been attacked outside the strategically important Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The viatl waterway provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.
Local reports suggest the attackers jammed GPS to prevent the ships from evading attack. The oil tankers were all operating near the bunkering port of Fujairah located in the United Arab Emirates and the attacks took place over the weekend of 11th and 12th of May.
In a separete incident, two pump stations on Saudi Arabia’s most strategically important pipeline “were attacked by armed drones” causing a fire that was soon extinguished. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, in a statement, called it “terrorism and sabotage”
Indications are that these incidents could develop to include cyber-attacks on vessels operating in the region.
Itai Sela, a former senior officer in the Israeli military and CEO of maritime cybersecurity firm Naval Dome commented:
“It is highly likely that vessels operating in high-risk areas could be targeted, systems hacked and GPS spoofed in order to render vessels immobile or re-directed as part of wider actions. There has been increased activity in the cyber domain over the last few months, which is very worrying.
“Shipowners with operations in the area must be vigilant and carry out inspections of all their PC-based navigation and machinery control systems. Ship operators should not allow crew members or technicians to plug-in USBs or external devices onboard or download maps and charts for specific areas, unless they absolutely need to do so. We also advised that operators check their insurance policies to ensure that OT systems are covered in the event of any cyber damage.”
A Saudi government statement blamed the Iranian-backed Houthis engaged in the civil war with the Saudi-backed government in Yemen. Iranian proxies are also fingered for the recent barrage of rockets and cyber attacks on Israel from Hamas-run Gaza..
US national security advisor John Bolton warned of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” regarding Iran.