Should We Be More Worried About The Security Of US Communications Networks?

from the rent-a-network-cop dept

A story from the WSJ last week alleging that the US electricity grid and other infrastructure system had been infiltrated with malware from foreign "cyberspies" gathered a lot of buzz, though it was difficult to determine the veracity of the report. This was followed by four fiber-optic lines being cut in Northern California, disrupting internet traffic, landlines and cell phones. The two stories, in quick succession, are leading some to wonder just how vulnerable American communications networks are, either to physical or cyber attacks. As CNet notes, the fiber cuts in Northern California seem to be the result of a knowledgeable malicious actor, since the attacks managed to knock out the redundancy that's generally built into fiber networks. There's some speculation that the cuts are related to ongoing labor talks between AT&T and the union representing some 125,000 of its workers, though there's no proof of this yet. While the likelihood of physical attacks such as fiber cuts creating widespread disruption to communications networks seems a little low, given the sheer number of cuts and the coordination that would be required, last week's events stand as a reminder of the importance of building redundancy into networks, as well as the need for network providers and local officials to be prepared to respond to total network outages. Meanwhile, concern over cyber attacks remains high, even if the actual threat remains harder to quantify. Of course, the federal government has made cybersecurity a priority, but its progress thus far doesn't look too promising.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    AA, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 12:31am

    Airlines with Internet

    Can't wait to fly on AA when they get their Internet up and running...or maybe I can...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jake, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 3:40am

    From the article about the California incident: "In each case, the vandals had to pry up heavy manhole covers with a special tool, climb down a shaft and chop through heavy cables." Emphasis mine.
    Was a manhole cover that can only be levered up by a specially-shaped piece of metal seriously the total extent of the security precautions on that inspection hatch? That's barely adequate for preventing kids from getting in on a dare, let alone a detarmined vandal or cable thief.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    Re: Airlines with Internet

    yes because some tool with a laptop is going to hack into the streaming satellite information that the plane uses and crash it, hijack, or transform the plane into a giant sugar covered doughnut.

    You all make my head hurt so much! If crashing a plane only took spamming frequencies off of common consumer goods wouldn't you think some jerks that desperately hate us enough to fly planes into our buildings would just have a cell phone making calls constantly!

    Ohhh goodness internet is magic! OOOOooooOOOooooo All the news I read on the WSJ doesn't even mention what these things are or why they haven't been removed. They could be talking about freaking typical malware that some stupid employee installed on his computer because he wanted a dancing purple monkey on his screen!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    yozoo, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 8:23am


    Once have a decent understanding of the switch mesh telco cloud, you'll be amazed any of it works at all . . . LOL

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    shaniac, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    What about Amdocs

    When will the outrage and concern grow, regarding the little know fact that the back-end provisioning of every major US wireless carrier is controlled by a single Israeli company? I have been concerned for years that Amdocs is the single breakpoint in the control of every major wireless carrier in the US. This is not just a security concern but also a concern that a majority of the products that can be offered and customer unfriendly rules/policies are actually due to the limited functionality of the system(s) they provide to all of these companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    When will the outrage grow that the entire system of NASDAQ is run by a single UK company? Answer? Never. By the way, the computers are actually in CT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    kirillian (profile), Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:48am


    Ya...especially when you can buy some of those tools from the local hardware, realistically, you probably won't be able to get the manhole key for the local fiber-optic cable repository, but it probably wouldn't be that difficult to create an appropriate key in a machine shop...or modify a similar one...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Electrical Infrastructure FUD

    IIRC the electrical infrastructure is FUD. Being that the only documented evidence of it occurring was an inside job and the only computer related part of it was the extortion email, the outage was causing by the inside man coordinating with the extortionist.

    The fiber optic cut, while still an unknown seems to be another inside job, considering the damage pretty surgical, wonder if the had a big layoff recently?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Re: Airlines with Internet

    How many banks get hacked each year?
    How many customer databases are stolen each year?
    They have top of the line security don't they?

    You sound like you have been taking too much magic lately.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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