Most of the people have a perception that whenever we send an email, or visit a website or make a payment the wireless signals go through the air to its destination, wholly. In reality, 97 percent of the global communications are transmitted through the network of 200 fiber-optic cables that are spread all over the beds of the large oceans.
This network is the lifeline of the 21st century or the Internet epoch. Those cables, which are thin as hose pipes, daily transmit data worth $10 trillion of financial transactions and also holds accountable for every operation done on the internet. And they are highly vulnerable.
These cables are placed in an isolated location but the position is publicly available. Their paths frequently concentrate at handful of choke points, and it requires no expertise to harm these wires. Be it on land or sea, these drivers of the global internet and world economy are always a threat to enemies of any nation –be it submarines of enemy nation or terrorist groups. All is required a successful attack to harm a nation’s security and prosperity.
The cables have always been installed by private companies ever since the first cable was laid under the Atlantic Ocean in 1858. This implies that most governments have not given the attention it requires.
The biggest threat to cables comes from the sea itself. In 2006, an earthquake in Taiwan showed huge disruption. Landslides under the water severed cables that lead to regional currency markets to experience halting. Hong Kong lost almost all of its communication systems and no mobile phone was working at that time. Any natural disaster under the sea can cause the world on land to panic.
Other threat is on the land, for commercial and geographical reasons the cables have to come on the shore at few remote sites. These sites can be easily attacked by terrorists posing threat to that nation. For the security of these sites, there is usually a skeleton team of some techies and a sturdy gate –making it extremely vulnerable to attacks.
A country can take several quick steps to improve its resilience and prevent harm to these undersea cables. The first thing is to jack up the security at all the land sites. Australia has established Cable Protection Zones in sea corridors which improves the patrolling during nautical activity. Private companies should consider installing monitoring equipment on their undersea cables, as well as install “dark cables” in case of emergency.
Furthermore, a nation should prioritize its defense policies to protect the freedom of the seas and sea lanes of communication. Moreover, it should make sure that the navy and maritime patrolling is getting the investments that are required.
However, not many instances of severing the undersea cables has been observed but prevention is always better than cure.