It has all the makings of intrigue or a conspiracy theory – the US Navy will add cyber- incident to the scope of its investigation of the collision, the second in recent months, between a warship and another vessel.
The US chief of naval operations, admiral John Richardson, has tweeted: “2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities.”
Speculation arose that the USS John S. McCain could have been the target of a cyber-attack after CNN cited an anonymous source as saying the ship had experienced a steering failure that caused it to collide with a Liberian-flagged commercial tanker as it headed into the Strait of Malacca.
Noting that the incident was the second of its kind in the Pacific theater – the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan in June, killing 10 sailors – Richardson ordered an “operational pause” so that fleet commanders could convene “with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we're taking all immediate action to ensure safe and effective operations around the world," he said in a statement on Facebook and other social media. “I am also directing a comprehensive review into all potential factors contributing to these incidents.”
Security firm Votiro founder Itay Glick told an Australian news service that his first thought had been that the ship could have been targeted in a cyberattack.
“I don't believe in coincidence,” Glick reportedly said, explaining that ship could have fallen victim to a GPS spoof or malware. “Both USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald were part of the 7th Fleet; there is a relationship between these two events and there may be a connection.”
Glick, who was in Israeli intelligence's cyber-warfare unit for seven years, said Russia or China could be capable of such an attack.
“China has capabilities. Maybe they are trying things, it is possible,” he said.