FBI is investigating physical attacks on fibre internet infrastructure

1 Jul 2015

A new front has opened in the cyber wars - physical infrastructure. The FBI is investigating 11 attacks on fibre cables in San Francisco.

If battling armies of hackers from China, Russia and Syria isn’t hard enough, the FBI is now investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-speed fibre cables in the San Francisco area.

ISPs including Level 3 and Zayo have been hit in the most recent attacks.

All 11 attacks date back a year, indicating this could be the beginning of a new phenomenon.

High-speed internet cables that traverse oceans and run beneath cities aren’t easy to attack, insofar as many are shielded in thick armour or run underground via special ducts.

In Arizona earlier this year thousands of people were cut off from the internet after someone sliced through underground fibre cables.

According to USA Today, in the latest attacks in San Francisco someone broke into an underground vault and cut three fibre-optic cables belonging to Level 3 and Zayo.

Could we be witnessing a new phase in the war for internet security where cyber attackers are including physical attacks on infrastructure alongside malware and other virus attacks to disrupt communications?

“When it’s situations that are scattered all in one geography, that raises the possibility that they are testing out capabilities, response times and impact,” JJ Thompson of Rook Security said. “That is a security person’s nightmare.”

Fibre image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years