Mark Collins – Cutting the (undersea) Cable: The Bear and the Net

Remember what the Brits did to the Germans at the outbreak of World War I (via John Schindler at twitter):

Undersea Cables: How Russia Targets the West’s Soft Underbelly 

Russia has been stepping up its submarine patrols near remote locations of fiber optic cables laid on the ocean floor and carrying digital data across continents the New York Times reports.

Pentagon officials and European diplomats speaking on the condition of anonymity compared Russian activities to Cold War levels, when both East and West repeatedly tried to tap undersea cables to extrapolate intelligence, something that is still standard practice among the world’s leading intelligence agencies, although it is rarely talked about in public.

The United States is in particular concerned about Russia’s burgeoning capabilities to interrupt global internet traffic communications by cutting undersea cables in the event of a conflict with the West. Russian submarine patrols have risen by over 50 percent in the last year, according to statements made by senior officials of the Russian Navy.

However, the precise nature of Russian activities remains highly classified. “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics,” a U.S. Navy spokesman told the New York Times.


Submarine Internet Cable Map produced by Tele Geography.

It is also an open secret that the United States, given its technological superiority over peer competitors and the size of its navy, has been the most active in tapping undersea cables across the world oceans and collecting intelligence.

As I noted in 2010, most people are not aware that our global digital connectivity rests upon a number of fiber optic cables lying at the bottom of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They wrongly believe that their international communications are carried via satellite links. The truth is that 99 percent of transcontinental Internet traffic travels through these connecting cables; these are the lifelines of our economies…

Whilst earlier on the Five Eyes side:

GCHQ Paid Millions to Spy on UK Submarine Data Cables, Edward Snowden Reveals

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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