At the greatest depths of the world’s oceans, 550,000 underwater cables facilitate $10 million worth of financial transactions, everyday.
These cables are managed by more than 200 operators and owners, including traditional communications providers, governments, public-private partnerships, and powerhouse tech firms, such as Google and Facebook.
An issue with the cable system could affect numerous countries, across numerous continents, impacting critical industries, and millions of people. Is this underwater superhighway sufficiently secure to contend with today’s threat actors?
“[Cybersecurity is] nonexistent despite multiple nascent articles by the community to point out how easy it would be to take down international submarine and terrestrial communications- which have been going on since the days of World War 1,” says one consultant and systems engineer. “Our technologies…do not have any but the most superficial protection mechanisms…” he continued.
Although the underwater cables themselves retain few endpoints, the Network Management Systems (NMS’), Network Operation Centers (NOCs), and remote access portals for system suppliers could potentially suffer cyber breaches. A recent third-party report describes systems as vulnerable to cyber threats.
Yet, other professionals contend that the underwater telco technologies in place do have adequate protections, including military grade encryption systems. In addition, severe criminal and civil penalties are in effect to deter threat actors and those who might ‘accidentally’ cause damage (as one can do with a fishing boat and an anchor).
The continued need for high-speed communications between countries and across continents will lead us to take a closer look at the mechanisms, processes and policies involved in securing these communications over the course of the coming weeks.
For a deep dive into this story, visit Dark Reading.