Russian subs prowling near submarine cables: report

Our 'fishing trawler' dropped that 'anchor' right on your internet backbone? So soz!

In what sounds like a return to the Cold War Era, United States defense types are warily watching Russian submarines cruising around its own – and other countries' – submarine cables.

Submarine cables have spread far and wide of late and provide the backbone of the Internet and, as such, have great strategic significance. While such cables remain difficult to tap, they're easy to cut. To do so, all one needs is a dragging anchor.

According to the New York Times, Russia is raising fears of cable cuts in the Pacific by sending its subs, complete with extra deep-sea submersibles, to hang around nearby cable landings.

Citing intelligence officials that can't be named, the NYT says one such sortie seemed to come close to the route from the East Coast to Guantánamo Bay where there's a landing station.

What concerns the defence types is that deep-ocean cuts are much harder to deal with than the more common inshore cuts that happen when fishing nets or anchors do the damage.

Most cables' locations are public – apart from the well-known maps published by Telegeography, each country makes cable locations available as navigation aids in an effort to avoid accidental damage.

Because there's no reason to try and hunt down already-public data, The New York Times speculates that what the subs are looking for is any hint that points to the location of secret cables owned and operated by national security agencies.

That seems, at least, more plausible to The Register than the idea that Putin's Russia will soon mount an attack on the Internet, given how many alternatives most routes offer. It's feasible that secrecy leaves intelligence-owned cables much more vulnerable to the loss of a single route. ®

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