Last July, the captain of the American commercial vessel Manukai reported multiple incoherences in the navigation data originating from its Automatic Identification System (AIS) in the port of Shanghai. This system enables automated message exchanges between vessels by VHF radio. It gives the identity, status, position and route of vessels located in the navigation zone.

The Washington-based non-profit organization C4ADS, which specializes in the analysis of global conflicts, was commissioned to conduct an investigation into this event. By analyzing a database containing GPSAIS signals from around the world, C4ADS discovered that the data falsification had in fact begun in the previous summer. These alterations gradually increased as the months went by, with a peak recorded on the day the captain of the Manukaireported having difficulties. In fact data from nearly 300 vessels had been usurped.

Although this type of attack occurs in other parts of the world, the data falsification techniques used in the port of Shanghai seem to be different from attacks already observed against these systems. It would seem that all GPS devices in proximity to the port of Shanghai were disrupted by this attack.

The people responsible for these attacks have not been identified. However, certain investigations indicate the involvement of sand traffickers. This sand is dredged illegally from the Yangtze river and then goes through the port of Shanghai before being used in the construction industry. For years these traffickers are known to have compromised GPS AIS systems in order to be able to navigate stealthily through the port of Shanghai. The possible involvement of the Chinese government carrying out an experimental attack cannot be excluded.