Vandalism of fiber-optic cables in California points to deeper problem with Internet security

fiber optic, computing
Someone in the San Francisco Bay Area is walking around with a pair of wire cutters, and putting them to bad use. Following a string of nearly a dozen vandalism incidents of fiber-optic cables in the area, the FBI is conducting an investigation. The perpetrator (or perpetrators) is apparently snipping underground fiber-optic cables throughout the region, causing widespread Internet and phone problems. In a statement, the FBI reported, “Within the past year, cables were intentionally severed. The individuals may appear to be normal telecommunications maintenance workers or possess tools consistent with that job role.”

The latest incident, which occurred Tuesday, caused many Wave Broadband customers to experience considerable service disruptions. According to officials, this attack is the 11th since last July, and FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich told USA Today, “When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing. We definitely need the public’s assistance.” While law enforcement does not believe that these are coordinated attacks, the larger problem at hand is the obvious vulnerability of Internet lines that these attacks have emphasized.

Speaking with USA Today, Roger Entner of Massachusetts-based Recon Analytics noted, “Our most critical infrastructure is basically unsecured,” and while nothing more has come out of these latest attacks than annoying blackouts, some experts are concerned that criminals and vandals are just testing the waters. As Ralph Descheneaux of North Carolina-based Network Integrity Systems told the paper, “You can spend a lot of money on encryption and fire walling, but you also need to cover the basics. At the end of the day, if you don’t protect the actual transport mechanism, you’re always going to have a point of vulnerability.”

Much of the Internet (and seemingly, our well-being) is connected to these thin cables that run underground and under the sea, but the relative ease with which these past few attacks have been carried out (and the apparent lack of information surrounding who the perpetrators may be) is raising some major red flags for security experts. The FBI is urging anyone with information to come forward, and have added that those responsible may be dressed as utility workers.

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