UK think tank warns of threats to submarine cables
97% of global communications and $10 trillion in daily financial transactions are transmitted not by satellites in the skies, but by cables lying deep beneath the ocean.
Undersea cables are the indispensable infrastructure of our time, essential to our modern life and digital economy, yet they are inadequately protected and highly vulnerable to attack at sea and on land, from both hostile states and terrorists.
U.S. intelligence officials have spoken of Russian submarines “aggressively operating” near Atlantic cables as part of its broader interest in unconventional methods of warfare.
When Russia annexed Crimea, one of its first moves was to sever the main cable connection to the outside world.
Undersea cables come ashore in just a few remote, coastal locations. These landing sites are critical national infrastructure but often have minimal protection, making them vulnerable to terrorism.
A foiled Al-Qaeda plot to destroy a key London internet exchange in 2007 illustrates the credibility of the threat.
Since the first trans-Atlantic cable laid in 1858, cables have mainly been installed and owned by private companies.
Although positive for taxpayers, this has meant undersea cables do not get the attention from governments they deserve. ■