Federal investigators are currently conducting an investigation on a series of attacks directed at high-capacity Internet cables located in San Francisco Bay Area, in California. Federal agents said that the latest attack was reported this Tuesday, but other acts of vandalism date back a year.
The latest incident let Bay Area and Sacramento residents temporarily without Internet access. The FBI declined to provide more details because the investigation was ongoing. The agency said that somebody broke into an underground location and cut three fiber optic cables from two local internet providers.
But the first attacks in the area occurred July 6, 2014, according to the FBI.
“When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing. We definitely need the public’s assistance,”
a spokesperson of the FBI said.
Cyber security experts believe that the series of attacks underscore the vulnerability of the “critical” internet infrastructure in the region. Optical fiber cables are high-speed lanes that use light waves to transmit data from one hub to another at breath-taking speeds. From hubs, the Internet service is delivered to customers via lower-capacity wires such as DSL.
But incidents when somebody cuts fiber-optic cables are not isolated. Earlier this year, Arizona witnessed a similar event. Back then tens of thousands of people experienced an Internet blackout.
Five years ago, California’s internet cables were sliced in four sites, leaving tens of thousands with no cell phone connectivity and Internet service for several hours. The FBI believes that California attackers may test the capabilities, impact and response time of authorities.
The agency also disclosed that cutting the cables required dedicated tools because they have a tough protective outer layer although their diameter is not larger than that of a pencil. The federal investigation may be hampered, though, by the lack of CCTV footage.
Mark Peterson of the Wave Broadband said that the company doesn’t have an exact number of the Bay Area residents who were left without Internet service on Tuesday. He said that the latest attack was “coordinated.”
Cable owners Level 3 and Zayo connect local services such as Wave Boradband to the Internet highway through the high-capacity fiber optic lines. But keeping the cables safe has been a “massive challenge” for cities, states and American businesses because they are all around and very visible.
Experts said that only one attacker can cut off service from three companies by just digging a hole. And penalties are not harsh enough to discourage vandals from property damage.
Image Source: Wikipedia