"New Threats, Old Technology: Vulnerabilities in Undersea Communication Cable Network Management Systems"
Discussion Paper 2012-03, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, Belfer Center
Author: Michael Sechrist, Former Associate, Explorations in Cyber International Relations (ECIR), Jan.-Jun. 2012; Former Project Manager, ECIR , Oct.-Dec. 2011; Former Research Fellow, ECIR, Jul. 2010-Sep. 2011, Former Associate, Explorations in Cyber International Relations (ECIR), Jan–Jun 2012; Former Project Manager, ECIR, Oct–Dec 2011; Former Research Fellow, ECIR, Jul 2010–Sept 2011
Undersea cables are among the most critical technologies supporting today's global data and voice communications. Long-standing physical vulnerabilities to attack persist: cable landing stations, for example, cluster high-value cable systems at single geographic points, but without the physical protections provided to other critical infrastructure such as telecommunication data centers. With an increasing number of cable operators using remotely-controlled network management systems, operators have introduced additional risk of large-scale cyber attacks, adding new urgency to securing all potential points of compromise, both the physical sites and well as the logical infrastructure. While individually governments and industries have taken some steps to address such matters, much work remains. Collaboration on fortifying security with new regulatory and voluntary action, working through existing bodies such as Team Telecom under the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and the International Cable Protection Committee, should accelerate.
This work is funded by the Office of Naval Research under award number N00014-09-1-0597. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.
Statements and views expressed in this discussion paper are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Harvard University, the Harvard Kennedy School, or the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
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