Analysis by Geollect indicates that since May 14, 2023, commercial vessels’ Automatic Identification System (AIS) data has been remotely spoofed to create the impression of a 65km long russian pro-war Z symbol on the Black Sea, visible on open source tracking software, the UK Defense Intelligence reports.
AIS is used to track vessels, including to ensure their safety. Tracks making up the image suggested vessel speeds of up to 102 knots (188 km/h), further suggesting they were fake.
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According to the UK Defense Intelligence, pro-russian actors likely conducted the spoofing as an information operation, potentially in an attempt to bolster russian morale ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The spoofing of AIS increases the risk of maritime accidents. Despite russian virtual information operations in the Black Sea, its physical navy remains vulnerable: the Ivan Khurs intelligence gathering vessel was likely attacked on May 24, 2023.
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