Network terrorism?

Four separate reported and confirmed failures of undersea cables serving the Middle East and North Africa over the last week have inspired conspiracy theories as to what caused this.

Whether any have validity, the fact is that undersea cable networks – despite multiple layers of built-in reliability – are highly vulnerable to deliberate attacks.

As the economic importance of undersea systems grows, risks from sabotage must be considered.

Matt Walker, senior analyst at Ovum, comments:

“There is an unspoken assumption that the networks are safe from deliberate human sabotage. The recent spate of cable failures in a politically volatile region has called this assumption into question.”

“If ports, railways, gas pipelines, and other types of networks are being secured against possible sabotage, we must similarly increase the security of undersea optical highways. Guaranteeing reliability is impossible, but an improvement on the current hands-off approach is long overdue.”

“The economic cost of losing, or even just slowing down, international communications is extremely high. This risk has to be factored into the calculations behind the investment level and design of undersea optical networks.”