Why Our Undersea Fiber Optic Internet Links Are Vulnerable to Attack
Under our oceans there lies a network of fiber optic cables that stretch over half a million miles. These fiber optic cables are responsible for handling 97% of global communications and $10 trillion in daily financial transactions.
These cables are used to transmit confidential information, financial transactions and allow us to communicate globally. You would think that these indispensable undersea cables would be secure and given the utmost level of security and protection.
However, in a recent report carried out by the leading UK think tank Policy Exchange It was revealed that this is far from the truth. The report states that the network of cables has Inadequate Protection in international law. It also states the undersea fiber optic internet links are vulnerable to attack or sabotage from hostile states and terrorists.
What Are The Threats To Our Undersea Cables?
The report highlights the following potential threats to our undersea fiber optic cable network:
- The location of most undersea cables in the world is publicly available, making them vulnerable to attacks.
- Cables face risk at sea, on land, and in cyberspace.
- Sabotage of undersea cable infrastructure resulting in damage to commerce.
- Disruption of government-to-government communications, leading to economic turmoil and civil disorder.
- At sea, the barriers to entry for successful attacks on cable infrastructure are low.
- While submarine warfare is the greatest threat, an attack could need only unsophisticated and widely available equipment and vessels.
- On land, cables are highly concentrated in a few landing sites. These sites are not secure and present vulnerable targets for terrorism.
- Cyber-attacks against network management systems used to control cable infrastructure have the potential to hand hackers a kill-switch to the connectivity of entire regions.
The Russian Threat
The report also highlights the risk posed by Russia stating that Russia is increasingly willing to aggressively use its naval capability. Examples of this are clear in US, UK, Finland, Sweden, Mediterranean Sea and in the GIUK Gap. (the waters between Greenland, Iceland and the north of the UK).
US intelligence officials have also highlighted how Russian submarines have been seen “aggressively operating” near Atlantic cables as part of their “broader interest in unconventional methods of warfare”.
In November 2017 a Royal Navy frigate shadowed the Vice Admiral Kulakov which is an Udaloy-class destroyer and one of the largest of its kind in the Russian fleet. When It brazenly entered British waters the HMS Somerset was scrambled to keep watch over the warship. The destroyer was previously shadowed by HMS Somerset in March 2016 on its way to the Mediterranean where Russia has been building its presence amid strife in the Middle East.
The Policy Exchange reports also highlights the following risks posed by Russia:
- Russia has both specific experience and an interest in using unconventional or hybrid means of warfare, like disrupting communications networks.
- In Crimea, Russia easily cut all digital communications from the peninsula and it has also been “aggressively operating” near undersea cables in Scandinavia and the Atlantic.
- Russia is attracted to hybrid warfare like this because it offers the scope for plausible deniability, involves limited loss of human life, and exploits the grey areas of NATO Article 5 mutual responsibilities.
- More generally, Russia is investing significantly in its naval capacity and plans to have the world’s second-largest navy by 2027.
- In addition to traditional submarines, this investment includes Yantar class intelligence ships and auxiliary submarines, both of which are specifically able to disrupt undersea cable infrastructure.
Undersea Fiber Optic Internet Links Are Vulnerable To Attack – Conclusion
Most of us rely heavily on the internet connections that this undersea network of cables provides. It gives us the ability to communicate globally in a way that we now take for granted. It’s hard to believe that something we take for granted is highly vulnerable to attack from terrorist activity or an increasingly hostile Russian naval force.
The chances of these vulnerabilities being exploited are increasing and if a successful attack on this undersea infrastructure happens It could deal a crippling blow to the security and prosperity of the world.
Currently, there is no real alternative to using these undersea cables because satellite technology cannot effectively handle the communications requirements of the modern digital economy and society.
As preppers, we should try as best we can to reduce our reliance on technologies such as the internet. Whilst the internet makes things easier and allows us to learn at a faster rate. We should consider the real possibility of it being taken down for a significant amount of time. Or being used against us by cyber-terrorists who hack into the network due to ease of access.