“Our submarine cables can be targeted by countries that tend to destroy them,” said Florence Parly, Minister of the French Armed Forces. The internet is under surveillance indirectly and imperceptibly. Harassed by corporations and nations weaving a new language of geopolitical influence, as the Cold War cables unfold Underwater. The biggest problem is that these waterways are vital, but vulnerable. Hundreds of arteries traverse the planet in the form of underwater data routes on which the global interoperability of the network depends, while shaping a new way of understanding digital communication and sovereignty. Given that, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), remittances are made through these cables Ten billion a day.
“The intention was not to cut the cables, but to send a message to NATO that they can cut them whenever they want”
A statement issued by the Irish military after the incident with the Russian ship off its coast
“We are critical infrastructure While the civilian internet is used by everyone, the functioning of financial markets and even some military capabilities depend on these flooded networks,” he explained. Jens StoltenbergNATO Secretary General. Namely, the last boycott of the gas pipelines North Stream It was meant to be a powerful symbolic act that exposed the weaknesses of the West, and 475 The cables in existence today are a true unattended Achilles heel.
Hector Estebandirector of UPV’s School of Communications Engineering, identifies that “an essential part of the entire physical structure of the Internet, more than 95% Of the data transmitted over the Internet passes through some submarine cable. A less economical alternative is to use a satellite, and there is more signal delay. Not surprisingly, British Admiral Sir Tony Radikin went so far as to say that “Russia has increased its ability to penetrate and possibly exploit those undersea cables.”
These words coincided with the fact that a month before the Ukraine conflict, there was a submarine cable connecting Norway and North Pole It stopped working for no apparent reason in the archipelago of Svalbard, a place that is the gateway to gas and oil under the Arctic soil. And in February Russian Yantar spy submarine It was spotted off the coast of Ireland, passing through the transatlantic submarine cables connecting Europe and the United States. The Irish military stated “the intent was not to cut the cables, but to send a message to NATO that they could cut them.” Wants”. Mark GallottiThe Russian political expert explained that Ireland is an important node due to the high concentration of technology companies, and this is the battleground for the future.
Jose Antonio MoranD., director of the Department of Communications Technology and Services Engineering at the University of British Columbia, notes that “one of the first tactics at the start of a war is to blind the enemy. Touching a submarine cable can paralyze business and cause huge economic losses.” And now, with tensions rising in the Pacific, Taiwanwhich receives 95% of the internet via submarine cables, fears isolation in case of problems with these infrastructures.
Pierre Morcus and Colin Wall, both members of CSIS, noted that “there are many goals that can be achieved.” cable cut: cutting military or government communications in the early stages of a conflict, removing Internet access from the target population, causing economic disruption for geopolitical purposes, or all at once.”
According to a report by the Atlantic Council, about 59% These cables were laid by private companies, and a 38% They have government involvement. In this sense, companies such as China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and Huawei Marine stand out and worry. Putin also talked about building an underwater infrastructure with the state-owned company Rostelecom, which has already laid cables on the Russian islands. For Professor Esteban of UPV, these underwater connections are a thriving industry. According to Bloomberg, global cable market It is expected to reach $7.8 billion by the end of 2022. In this context, Spain is a strategic link area that seeks to be a bridge between Europe, South America and Asia. In addition, Gibraltar is one of the bottlenecks through which several cables pass.
This adoption will increase in the future with the development of military 5G applications. Rishi Sunak, a British parliamentarian wrote a report stating that the location of these data highways is not a secret, it does not take expertise or resources to damage them and they are not well protected under international law. Although in 2021, Moran notes, an International Cable Protection Committee has been established, it only makes some non-mandatory recommendations.
in the spotlight
Between 100 and 150 submarine cable cuts occur each year. Part of it is due to the attack of marine animals such as sharks, anchors, hooks and deep-sea fishing devices. In addition to volcanic eruptions such as those that occurred in Tonga. This, in turn, reveals the ease of influencing these infrastructures. In this scenario, the European Parliament considered in their Strategic Challenge Report, stating that the weakness of the cable itself with repairs on the high seas is more difficult, longer and more expensive.
It states that civilian, research, fishing, or pleasure yachts that use improvised cutting tools, such as anchors and dredging devices, may be used in attacks. In addition to the coordinated use of explosives. And this scenario It wouldn’t be so obvious It is not easy to manage by affected governments, given the effects and delays caused by restoring service. The idea is to create chaos.
An additional form of physical assault through Submersible boats or drones and submarines Military rank. Another point to consider is the stations on land where submarine cables terminate and connect to terrestrial network from the local operator. But Professor Moran of the University of Oklahoma explains that complete obfuscation is impossible – except for islands – due to redundancy, “In other words, not all data passes from the same place, it is a network architecture with other points of support in case of failure. Companies can also deal With cables, adding back doors during manufacturing, or hacking infrastructures.
Underwater spying will be nothing new. In the 1970s, the US National Security Agency implemented Operation Ivy Bells Using attack submarines and divers to place recording devices on sea cables that were located near the Soviet naval bases on the Kuril Islands. In fact, the current communications spy network called five eyes It consists of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and has a program, ‘season’, which intercepted data passing through submarine cables for years. Meanwhile, Russia is developing underwater drones and Mir-1 mini-submarines, according to the Australian news network.
Also with the network runitIn a bid to achieve digital sovereignty, Russia plans to make its network independent from the rest of the world. In a way that an attack could not affect a global structure such as submarine cables. and area South China Sea And China’s deployment of its cables on the islands with military bases With the Digital Silk Road project.
And one of the most desirable projects is the cable that runs through the North Pole, the distance between the continents is shorter, it communicates with more people and it is more profitable. For Esteban, “a new iron curtain is being created” in this war to protect data, as uncertainty is everywhere.