back to article Russia could chop vital undersea web cables, warns Brit military chief

The head of the British Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, has warned that Russia could cut off the UK by severing undersea communications cables. In a speech made to military think-tank the Royal United Services Institute last night, the air marshal said: "There's a new risk to our way of life, which is the …

  1. Solarflare

    Forgive me if I've misunderstood something here, but why would we (the UK) be the most at risk if a cable is cut in the Pacific? Surely that would affect Japan, Austrailia, America etc the most? Surely we should be more concerned with Atlantic cables?

    1. Naselus

      The speech is largely in response to increased Russian troll-sub presence in the North Atlantic. I've no idea why they've shown a picture of the Pacific cable, tbh.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Is a troll-sub the sort of submarine you would expect to be manned by Katie Hopkins?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Alowe

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        No, they could just send a person down with a laser cutter. Any more smart ideas people want to give away?

        1. Strahd Ivarius
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

          No, better to use a shark with head-mounted laser!

      2. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        Unless someone "arranges" a fire when a truck on the shuttle service suddenly explodes. Never happened before...oh wait, yes it has. Twice :-(

      3. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        Are you absolutely sure no specialised nuclear depth charge could implode and flood the Chunnel? Remember in WWII the UK and America developed a number of specialised busting munitions like the bouncing bomb, bunker busters and the bombs used to sink the Tirpitz in its Norwegian Fjord. Some sort of piercing driven vertical torpedo would seem like the start of a tunnel buster.

        I know the UK spooks had the idea of mining it from within with a nuke but that was a practical ease of use operation designed to frustrate a very hypothetical Russian invasion of Western Europe. In reality the Soviets had their hands full with their Warsaw Pact buffer nations, were happy to have a buffer zone and warmongering Germany partitioned and didn't have any particular desire to invade Western Europe and administer it.

        Rather they hoped that the workers here would rise up and form Socialist paradises on their own.

        It was also true that by far the biggest concentration of Soviet arms was stationed on the border with Red China with whom they did NOT see eye to eye. There is now a lot of trade flowing over that border and it is less militarised than hitherto.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

          If we're at "specialised nuclear depth charge" level then comms cables are waaaaaaaay down the list of concerns.

      4. PacketPusher
        Pirate

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        That gets you to Europe, but not the rest of the world. If you want to get to south asia, you have to go through Russia or lay a cable across the Bosphorus which is vulnerable to those nasty submarines. Australia, Iceland, Ireland, and the Americas can only be accessed by submarine bait.

        Maybe we need to dig some REALLY long tunnels to put the cables in.

        1. Strahd Ivarius

          Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

          For the Boshporus, the main threat is still earthquakes...

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

            just get the french to strike. that will cut all comms through france. threaten to take away paid lunch breaks, that should paralyse most of the country.

      5. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        You're right I have been saying for years that we should build a tunnel under the Atlantic in addition to running cables, we could use a vacuum and send capsules down it at high speed and call it hyper ....something.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Nuclear depth charge?

          If you want to collapse the chunnel, wouldn't it be easier to smuggle an "ordinary" suitcase nuke onto one of the trains and blow it up from the inside?

          I don't know how carefully cargo trains crossing are checked, but conventional explosives could probably do the job if you could bring a few hundred pounds of Semtex in some cargo... This would have the bonus of offering the possibility of making it look like terrorists, or Iran or North Korea, so the real perpetrator could plead innocence.

          1. dmargon

            Re: Nuclear depth charge?

            isnt brexit supposed to do this?

        2. I&I

          "Hurrah!"

          Harry Harrison got there first

      6. Brent Beach

        Re: Stay calm and lay more cable...

        Brexit already threatens to cut all communications with the EU so the chunnel is not an option.

        Perhaps Trump will pay for a chunnel from London to Washington, right after he pays for the wall along the Mexican border.

    3. Merrill

      Europe - Far East communications transit North America

      Due to non-coincident busy hours, Europe to Far East cables via Eurasia are not needed. Instead, the Atlantic and Pacific cables are connected via North America taking advantage of the fact that the three continental pairs do not generate peak traffic at the same times.

      (It also makes it easier for Five Eyes to keep tabs on things.)

    4. Alowe

      Keep feeding the terrorists with all the info they need. Why do we in the West keep on blabbing about everything that would do the West damage, inspiring generations of terrorists.

      Does this not appear to anyone as being particularly stupid????

      1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

        Why do we in the West keep on blabbing...particularly stupid?

        No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

      2. Smooth Newt
        Meh

        Re: Keep feeding the terrorists

        Keep feeding the terrorists with all the info they need. Why do we in the West keep on blabbing about everything that would do the West damage, inspiring generations of terrorists.

        Does this not appear to anyone as being particularly stupid????

        You mean does the first paragraph of your comment appear to be particularly stupid? Definitely.

        I could try to explain to you that as an innocent bystander, you are more likely to be killed by a bee than a religious or politically motivated murderer (if that is what you mean by a "terrorist"), or I could talk about the physiological phenomenon of social amplification of risk which makes negligible risks appear important just because people talk about them, and the related concept of the availability heuristic in decision making which helps drives it, but I suspect there is very little point in trying to drag you from the world as fed to you by tabloid newspapers and Donald Trump into reality.

      3. Willyn

        I absolutely agree that too much information is put out on TV. During the war and after you were told to keep it under your hat.

        1. BumPuddl3

          Sure, but are "we" at war with the Russians? No. No we are not, no matter what CNN tries to tell you. Problem - Reaction - Solution. "The most effective way to beat the Opposition, is to lead it ourselves" - Lenin.

      4. Wayland Bronze badge

        I think they want the Russians to cut off Twitter and Facebook so they can't re-elect Trump. As we know Russia caused Brexit and Trump.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. JN0149

      Because it's good FUD fodder

    6. Faux Science Slayer

      Oceania has always/never been at WAR with Eurasia/Eastasia

      Earth's ruling Demonic Warlords have stage set, directed, prolongedcand profited from every war.

      "All Wars Are Bankers Wars" by Michael Rivero on YouTube

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: Oceania has always/never been at WAR with Eurasia/Eastasia

        It's only really the latter half of the 20th Century that beancounters have had any "real" power - bankers might hold the purse-strings but a strong enough force could come along and pry those purses from the cold, dead fingers of the bankers (why else do you really think that the Eurocrats are so determined to reduce national Armed Forces below effective strength while creating an "internal security force" that can overpower any individual member state's defences?).

        Unless you really believe that all wars since history began were fought because of a few money-grubbing merchants rather than because Religious Group A and Religious Group B disagree over which deity was/is stronger or whether it is Followers or Family who inherit control when the leader dies, or because one highly charismatic man manages to convince a large number of others that one hair or eye colour is inherently superior to all others then blaming the beancounters - however tempting - is to ignore what happens when nobody tells the playground bully to wind his neck in and play nice with others.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

    Yes. Problematic access to cat videos, grumble sites, modest inconvenience for the leeches of the city, It wouldn't be the end of my world.

    Perhaps as head of the UK's armed services, Sir Stuart should be more concerned with the vast conventional capability gaps in all three services, and the squandersome and repetitive incompetence of the MoD in all matters of procurement?

    1. Ben1892

      Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

      Oh noes, I can't has cheeseburger !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

        @Ben1892

        You mean 'haz', not 'has' :-)

        A/C (to avoid the anti-grammar Nazis).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

          RE: "You mean 'haz', not 'has' :-)"

          You can't dictate how a cat spells things.

          If I try to force my cat to spell has with a z she shoves my coffee off the desk.

      2. Bill M

        OMG !! Is it time to locally cache all the cat vid's on web

        Should I set a web crawler and cache enough cat vid's locally to last me for life ?

      3. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

        "Oh noes, I can't has cheeseburger !"

        You know what's most pathetic? The fact that I, a 45 year old bloke, gets the reference. It's Friday evening, time for a few swift ones in the pub on the way home.

        1. Ben1892
          Coat

          Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

          I'm not that far off you in age and the same gender, but I'm now already two beers down to restore the clever/stupid balance :)

          /goes off to learn spellings of cat-themed memes

        2. snarf

          Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

          "You know what's most pathetic? The fact that I, a 45 year old bloke, gets the reference. It's Friday evening, time for a few swift ones in the pub on the way home."

          Your nickname on this forum is FuzzyWuzzys. Nobody expects you to have grown up. ;)

    2. ISYS

      Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

      "Yes. Problematic access to cat videos, grumble sites, modest inconvenience for the leeches of the city, It wouldn't be the end of my world"

      Unless you keep your money under the bed and not in a bank and you have an allotment, the severing of these cables would most certainly affect you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

        Unless you keep your money under the bed and not in a bank and you have an allotment, the severing of these cables would most certainly affect you.

        Still wouldn't be the end of my world. If traders on opposite sides of the Atlantic are unable to communicate, the trades don't happen, the assets don't evaporate, the liabilities don't go away, a few option traders get burned. Big hairy deal.

        Remember when 9/11 paralysed Western air traffic for the better part of a week? Or the same of an Icelandic volcano that most of us can't pronounce? And yet, despite the VITAL, VITAL IMPORTANCE of all those business class movers and shakers unable to move, no material impact on business at all. It's the same with transatlantic cables - somebody will certainly be inconvenienced, I can't see any properly run bank having any existential risk, and even food trade wouldn't be unduly affected.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

          "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

          Yes, this means that the traffic goes the backup route around the UK into the North Sea landing in Europe north of Rotterdam (if we assume the optical level backup of the same links). As a result UK can no longer snoop on them and we have to ask the Dutch for a favour. Oh my god the world just ended.

          To put it bluntly, if the hostilities reach a point where cables will be cut physically there will be P800 Onix and Kalibr going one way, Tomahawks the other shortly followed by nuclear tipped Khs Radugas and AG-86M exchanges and culminating with a Bulava vs Minuteman handshake.

          Simply, the navy and the military need more toys. The threat of Russia doing this does not exist. At the point where they do it, undersea cables will be the least of our worries. There will be no traffic on them anyway with the EMP knocking out all Internet exchanges and transmission huts on the cable routes.

          Now, there is a very clear threat of fringe groups, terrorists, self-declared states led by bearded lunatics, etc. That is different - it is the threat of them hijacking two trawlers or just buying them on the cheap (last time I checked - under 20 grand a piece for a couple of decommissioned ones) and having an excursion around Cornwall and around the Dutch coast north of Hook of Holland on the same day. All they need is a couple of AK47s on board - the only thing the UK coast guard has nowdays are inflatables. Not sure what the Dutch have (probably nothing much better either).

          That is different though - you cannot get any cool toys to deal with this. Nothing like the toys BAE will concoct to deal with an imaginary Russian threat in mid-atlantic (*).

          (*)Do not even get me started about ex-Generals getting consluttant positions in companies like BAE after they have "served their country". Everywhere - Russia too.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

            "The threat of Russia doing this does not exist."

            Not deliberately, of course. But there could be the occasional careless anchoring -oops, so sorry.

    3. Wim Ton

      Re: "Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted?"

      In the early hours of 5 August 1914, only a few hours after war was declared, Britain carried out something that seemed to be minor, but was actually vital. A British cable ship severed five German overseas underwater cables, which passed from Emden through the English Channel to Vigo, Tenerife, the Azores and the USA

      This cut direct German communications to outside Europe, most significantly to the United States. The British could now intercept German signals to their embassies. They were sent in code, but British codebreakers were eventually able to read them.

  3. Naselus

    The comments section for this story on the BBC website is frankly hilarious. It's descended into a flamewar between a Putinbot infestation on the one hand, and a bunch of old-school Daily Mail reading retired Colonel types on the other.

    My favourite comment so far has to be "Do you really expect us to believe that Sir Peach would lie to the RUSI?", as if the very suggestion of a British soldier exaggerating a threat to win more funding is a completely unthinkable smear on the reputation of an officer and a gentlemen.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Sounds like a perfectly reasonable comment to me! I get all my political and strategic information from SPEAK YOUR BRAINZ...

    2. 's water music Silver badge
      Trollface

      My favourite comment so far has to be "Do you really expect us to believe that Sir Peach would lie to the RUSI?"

      Please tell me that descended into a sub-thread flame war about correctly styling a knight of the realm.

      I don't suppose you could have another Speak Your Branes these days

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The comments on the BBC are always hilarious and scary at the same time, I present another classic from the same story,

      "Are the military 100% certain the cables still there? I wouldn't mind betting that the wonderful caravan travellers or EU horde from Dracula's homeland haven't lifted and stripped them of metals and weighed them in for scrap already"

      Shine a fucking light, where do these people come from?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        BBC website comments sections are a very powerful looney-magnet.

        1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
          Big Brother

          Typical BBC double standards

          Werdsmith wrote: "BBC website comments sections are a very powerful looney-magnet."

          True - but not all of them are visitors. Following a slightly dubious accident during a Formula 1 Grand Prix, I posted a comment asking if some of the posters on the BBC sports page would make their (nasty, rude and sometimes borderline psychopathic) comments if face-to-face with the driver but apparently the BBC Moderators consider it acceptable to make threats against sportsmen *and their families* but not to ask "would you say that if you were in the same room?"...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the real answer is.....

    ...to spend more money on infrastructure.

    Lets face it, you could have a 1000 more warships and still not stop this...all it takes is a trawler.

    Yet investing in a 1000 more cables would make it much harder to have a major impact.

    But I guess we like the £100,000 missile to blow up a tent idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the real answer is.....

      Promising theory but they would probably all still come ashore in Cornwall at Sennen Cove or Porthcurno beach and meet at Skewjack farm where CESG intercepts them.

  5. Outer mongolian custard monster from outer space (honest)

    This isnt a new threat, I remember having this discussion and the possibility of intercept/monitoring on the repeaters with collegues. There's alarming systems and other devices of course but to be fair, dragging a ships anchor through one "accidentally" would be rather little green man style of operations.

    However timing of this in reality makes It fit being a military budget inducing narrative to suddenly care and acknowledge it publically.

    It would cause economic chaos and have all sorts of not immediately obvious side effects, which even someone as insular and bubble inhabiting as Ledswinger would be heavily affected by.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "This isnt a new threat, "

      The "threat" is even older. Pre-Internet, the world relied on undersea voice and telex comms for much of the worlds international trade so the threat of cutting off the UKs phone cables was as "real" as this one. There would likely be more of an effect now as we depend on data connections far more than we ever relied on voice and telex, but the threat is exactly the same.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    It think this is called "really reaching"

    Sadly, being a complete clown doesn't have consequences.

    "I'm getting my way of life through the the undersea web cables!"

    1. eldakka Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: It think this is called "really reaching"

      It think this is called "really reaching"
      As in a reach-around? Sounds about right.

      Coat icon because that's what you were when going after reach-arounds isn't it?

  7. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Coat

    Protecting underwater cables is easy

    ... compared to protecting European GNSS satellites which America's military has said it would be prepared to put out of action if they believed that were necessary.

    The one with "America: The Good Guys!" reprint in the pocket.

  8. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Cut off the UK?!?!

    Good lord, but he's right. The US is our major trade partner! Our nearest land mass! Our special relationship!

    Oh, what a thing it is to be an island with no nearby continent to communicate or trade with, forced to send our exports across 3000 miles of unforgiving ocean and forever at the mercy of the Russians snipping the phone line.

    If only there was somewhere else to turn, perhaps a continent of half a billion like minded souls some 20 miles away. We can but dream of such a world.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

      Psssst! Don't tell anyone, but all our communications links with that there Yrup are also via under-sea cables...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

        Psssst! Don't tell anyone, but all our communications links with that there Yrup are also via under-sea cables....

        Nope, they are not.

        If my memory from my telco days are right, most of the capacity from the UK to the continent is dual route. One route is ALWAYS under the sea - North Sea or Channel. The other route is USUALLY the Channel Tunnel (sometimes an alternative sea route). So on that side usually only one is under sea.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

          Kinda. Look at the Telegeography maps for a rough idea. Some fibre is routed via the Chunnel, but there are.. wayleave issues and other complications with doing that, mostly commercial. But there are fairly widely diverse routes across the pond, and from the UK into Europe.

          Challenge from a security standpoint though is I think too many people now know where cables are to too high an accuracy. Anyone who's worked on this stuff knows customers will demand high resolution routing plans in easily exportable KML form. Wet sections still have a little protection, ie cable protection zones on navigation charts are more general.. But still sometimes ignored, ie accidental cable cuts from anchor drags. That's something where in Euroland, it's often relatively straightforward to identify ships in the area so cable operators know who to bill.

          Same's true for some nefariousness. So if someone cuts a cable, that's usually quickly detected, then a cable maintenance ship will yoink the cable up, or look at it with an ROV. Unauthorised taps for a Tbps system should be detectable to the eyeballs on a cable ship.

          Rest is kinda prelude to brown stuff heading for the whirly thing, ie all cables get cut, and satellites start going dark is likely to mean something more serious is about to happen than losing access to kitteh pics and hentai.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

          One route is ALWAYS under the sea - North Sea or Channel. The other route is USUALLY the Channel Tunnel (sometimes an alternative sea route).

          If the Russians want to snip the comms lines, they will, Just because some aren't underwater will be no bother, just as there have at times been a range of suspicious "accidents" and explosions on a range of strategic gas pipelines in central and eastern europe.

          Even on land and in "home territory", civil infrastructure is VERY difficult to protect from a modestly intelligent adversary. This also applies to electricity, gas, water, even sewers. Our strategic adversaries (as opposed to bearded god-botherers) know this full well. I could nominate the Pareto attack points for UK infrastructure with a few minutes work - our potential adversaries will already have a list, and maybe even sleepers in place to do the work..

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

            The point, though, is that if you're at THAT point, you can pretty much assume WW3 is imminent (and likely the end of the world as we know it, as WW3 implies MAD). In which case, you'll have other concerns.

    2. Captain Badmouth
      Happy

      Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

      They've cut the cable?

      Better get on the RT then.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

      @Androgynous Cupboard

      The US is our major trade partner! Our nearest land mass! Our special relationship!

      Not with David Cameron and George Osborne batting for China.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42377177

      Who knows, he may even do a deal where the Chinese refit the new carriers with catapults and kit them out with Chinese built fighter aircraft, provide extra crew and help with the running costs to keep both vessels at sea at the same time. On condition we help them out with any spats in the South China Sea that may threaten the Belt and Road Initiative.

      I'd better make myself scarce pronto - there are a couple of men in white coats coming this way with what looks like to be a straight jacket

    4. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

      Re: Cut off the UK?!?!

      Androgynous Cupboard wrote "If only there was somewhere else to turn, perhaps a continent of half a billion like minded souls some 20 miles away. We can but dream of such a world."

      I assume you don't know anyone who ever worked for a haulage company or on a fishing boat, used a ferry or the Channel Tunnel or flown on an airline affected by the "like minded souls some 20 miles away" whenever the farmers, air traffic controllers, truckers or other group decide to cause trouble....

  9. ukgnome Silver badge
    Coat

    Flying Submarines? I don't think so!

    I thought it was all in the clouds these days.

  10. f4ff5e1881
    Megaphone

    Most Important Comment

    I bet the Russians start cutting the cable just as I’m typing this mess hage ….......... ong I blobddggggggg eeekkkkk ….....…. … rrrr rrrrr rrrr rrrrr …............ erg39f883 429egjejrg390j …...... ..... schnell! schnell! kartoffelkopf! ….. htijeerg … ......... .. 293i2ergei09iereg … ...... .. . until the name Maudling is almost totally obscured.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Re: Most Important Comment

      I'm sorry you appear to have a terrible lion up your end, there's an advantage to an enema at once!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why don't we just run them over the sea? That way submarines and boats can't cut them.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Why not just have each plane passenger carry a handful of USB thumbdrives with them on every flight, and tell them to drop them off on their way to whereever they've going? I'm sure the airlines could get this organised, as there's bound to be someone going near most cities, and if not they can get someone else to complete the journey.

      Might slow the internet down a touch, but modern life is too fast anyway. And it would give us more time for tea breaks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Better yet why don't we drill down to the centre of the earth and have a massive cable crossover & data centre there?

        1. Steve Hersey

          Because that would interfere with the Gravitube.

      2. VK2YJS

        Moving stuff via USB is faster than using Turnbull's "fraudband" VDSL / fibre to the node "NBN"...

    2. f4ff5e1881
      Facepalm

      "Why don't we just run them over the sea? That way submarines and boats can't cut them."

      Alas some ships, like tankers and cruise ships, are surprisingly tall…

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Obviously they would be really high up but not so high as to interfere with planes.

    3. VK2YJS

      As in, via multiple microwave links over the channel? Apart form the problem of intermittent cancellation of the signal due to reflection from the water, which redundancy may help, it should give some capacity.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        "Apart form the problem of intermittent cancellation of the signal due to reflection from the water, which redundancy may help, it should give some capacity."

        Thick fog in Channel. Continent cut off.

  12. batfink

    Er, so what's Sir Stuart's proposed solution then?

    So, what does Sir Stuart suggest we actually do about this Threat To Our Way Of Life then? Buy enough boats to shuttle up and down the wires at 10min intervals, looking For Bad Guys at their nefarious activities? Blockade them thar Russkies in their ports perhaps?

    Or is he just asking for more funding for the sharks/lasers project?

  13. asdfasdfasdf2015

    it's one cable

    the internet is resilient. route around the break.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it's one cable

      Doh! Don't tell them that they might think to cut more than one, perhaps even at the same time, mind you judging by recent events its more likely they'll cut a few and route all the traffic via Russia to do with what they wish.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: it's one cable

      the internet is design resilient. however companies route around the expense.

  14. naive

    Is Russia just a threat because Hillary lost the election ?

    Except from that, why would Russia be a threat, probably Merkel is a bigger threat for Europe than president Putin. Unless ms. Merkel, president Putin didn't allow an army of million aliens to invade West Europe.

    1. Holtsmark

      Re: Is Russia just a threat because Hillary lost the election ?

      Dear Naive,

      please do not turn the Register into the commenzs section for a BBB article about Brexit.

      The amount of anti-German xenophobia displayed in those comments is horrifying.

      Mrs. Merkel took steps that she believed to be the right ones at a time when the EU borders were buckling, very much as a consequence of failed anglo-american policies in the middle east (iraq war etc...).

      This did not leadt to optimal results, but the alternative might have been much worse.

      (I am personally critical to unrestricted immigration, but a number of the stories I hear from these people are truly heartbreaking).

      Germany now faces the big and difficult task trying to integrate these people. In this, it should not be forgotten that Germany has had to integrate huge numbers before; Peopleb(many of them Jewish) fleeing from the Soviet Union between the wars (which led to sentiments reflected in the UK today), 12 Million Germans fleeing from the Russians in 1945 to 1950 and 1.4 million "German"-Russians after the fall of the wall. Germany also had to refurbish and re-integrate all of East Germany in the same period. Hearing the british complain about having too many Polish plumbers and Romanian field workers is ridiculous.

      While WW2 is very much celebrated in the US and the UK, Germany has all thoughts about empire building very much bombed out of them. To the Germans, the British were seen as a sane partner nation, that could serve as a counterweight to the French. How this is currently misrepresented in the UK is quite sad.

      And myself; I am neither German nor British, and I live the productive life of an immigrant.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Resiliency options

    Despite the "everything will route around the break" talk, reality really isn't that simple.

    Firstly, cables that are rented as dark fiber, or which have SDH and static MPLS provisioned point to point links routed over them cannot reprovision quickly. Just imagine say Hibernia having both it's Trans-Atlantic fibers cut and begging Century Link for space on it's fibers. Even the provisioning processes will be utterly different, and getting a "clean" fiber pair assigned would be just about impossible: they would all be in use on various wavelengths. The muxes or routers would probably require new dark fiber between them: fine if they are in the same carrier hotel, slow if not.. The interruptions to service would be measured in weeks or months, and in all you might be better off just waiting for the repair ships to finish.

    Secondly, using IP to route around sounds easy, but it's not much better. The IP backbone of the affected carriers will be in all likelihood severely affected by the destruction of many of it's point to point links over which the IP runs. Carriers and end users do not generally have multiple transit relationships set up in advance: commit costs money, even if you don't use it, and even assuming there are available ports, capacity and all equipment in common carrier hotels (which have hopefully not also been attacked in some way!), you would need lots of planning and new dark fiber to stop these new links instantly saturating. So even assuming massive goodwill, we are talking about days or weeks to recover.

    I've had personal experience of a trans Irish sea issue where one cable provider suffered a cut which caused fairly severe issues: so severe, one of our customers called to *offer* capacity on their network. Despite all sides being sincere, the practicalities (local loop install, IP peering problems) were such the offer was never taken up.

    If you want to make us resilient, I think there are three things you could do. Firstly, mandate that key applications (banking, telephone/999, government functions) must be hosted within the UK. Incentivise this by making it a requirement for getting government business. Secondly, mandate that carriers must have contingency plans for rapidly increasing their transit and peering options: lit interfaces on routers between them, even if BGP is shutdown, "shadow" public peering configs held in readiness to be turned on on public exchanges, tested on occasion. Thirdly, mandate all carriers have plans to hurl neutrality into the bin in extremis, and aggressively throttle customer traffic by type on their edge, and also be willing to depeer AS's that demand the most traffic if the network is threatened by their demands.

    1. Threlkeld

      Re: Resiliency options

      That all sounds very sensible. Once he is made aware of the facts, I'm sure that Sir Stuart Peach will be glad to divert some funding from the MOD to beef-up the resilience of the system.

      I mean, defence funding is always deployed in the most rational a cost-effective manner, after an objective analysis of the most important and most likely threats. Anyone can see that.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Resiliency options

      Protection agreements are a thing, at least at system owner/operator level. So there may be an agreement between nominal competitors to reserve some capacity on systems in a mutual protection deal.. Which can get complicated if systems have widely different capacity, and tax/revenue recognition. And then even more complicated when customers call their account directors and scream they're down. Correct answer is to check if customer ordered a protected service, or not. If not, say it'll be 3-6wks and would they like to buy protection?

      But luckily with RealNetworks, a wavelength is usually a wavelength and generally compatible across systems. Like you say, IP is a whole other bag'o'nails. And smart network architects understand it's generally a whole lot simpler to swing a wavelength than 'route around the problem'.

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Not news.

    Was massively done* at outbreak of WWI (1914, not 1917). UK was a major telegraph hub. Prior to that Churchill had set up spying on all international traffic. The precursor to Bletchley & GCHQ.

    [*The UK cut any cables that would be of use to Germans and their allies.]

    1. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

      Re: Not news.

      Good reading :-)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Red_Line

  17. Attila of welshpool

    Not a new threat

    This is not a new threat by any means. Royal Navy X craft midget submarines were deployed at the end of WW2 to cut Japanese sub sea cables to disrupt their comms. So why the fuss now?

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Not a new threat

      My guess is that there's a bit of a question mark about how we can defend ourselves against submarines. We haven't had any maritime patrol aircraft since 2010 (and that was a Labour government decision). We depend on our NATO aliies, most of them in the EU. Dodgy project management is a part of the issue.

      Never mind the cables, what happens if ships start getting sunk in a war? But I might just be remembering the stories of my parents, of times when we were struggling to feed ourselves and there was food rationing. But it's the internet that is sexy today.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It not the Russians we need to worry about, North Korea could one day shoot down satellites because you can see them through telescopes with the naked eye.

    1. The First Dave

      " through telescopes with the naked eye."

      WTF?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You don't need special glasses to use a telescope but yes the contradiction was intended.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Telescopes not needed to see many satellites.

  19. a_mu

    its not new, cables have been of great use

    https://warandsecurity.com/2014/08/05/britain-cuts-german-cable-communications-5-august-1914/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ivy_Bells

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pot calling the Kettle Black

    Isn't that exactley what WE (the Brits) did at the outbreak of WWI, to the German's undersea comms cables?

  21. Steve Aubrey

    Sly

    "Naval gazers" - love it!

    1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Sly

      From the Office of Naval Contemplation :-)

  22. FordPrefect

    I'd love to know the plan for realistically protecting literally thousands of miles of cables from stealthy submarine attack!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lube them up. The submarines will just slip right over them. Never discount Lube in any situation. Just to be clear I am in no way affiliated with the international lube promotional board.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Lube tends to be oily, and oil tends to be flammable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The cables are in water and water isn't flammable.

          Though that does explain my burning rectum.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does sound like the perfect theme for the next Bond movie

    Submarine with massive set of bolt cutters strapped to the bow, theme to Jaws playing in the background.

    Muhahahahaha

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: Does sound like the perfect theme for the next Bond movie

      "Submarine with massive set of bolt cutters strapped to the bow..."

      Like when HMS Conqueror stole that towed array sonar from the Soviets in the Barents Sea, back in 1982?

  24. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Worried about Phishing attacks...?

    ...now you can start getting worried about Fishing attacks too.

  25. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I think the bigger issue affecting British communication with the rest of the world.

    Is that the Royal Navy will be down to something like 30 combatant vessels in 5 years or so. That is not counting the nuclear missile subs that avoid combat unless forced upon them, or those river-class patrol boats with out autocannon onboard that are mostly useful for scaring away foreign fishing boats.

    That's not a great look for an island nation of 60 million people that can't grow enough food to feed itself or produce enough energy with its own resources to keep the lights on.

  26. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Real Time Cyber Ware Fare .... for Fun Factory Fairs

    Which Service, Senior or otherwise and other worldly, provides UKGBNI Government Programming Lead to thwart and defeat any and all State and Non-State Enemies fully engaged in these sort of shenanigans ...... https://www.rt.com/usa/413218-us-army-cyber-attack-units/?

    The Royal Navy, Royal Air Force or the British Army? Or none of those usual suspects because their limited intelligence automatically disqualifies them? Is it a hybrid Joint Forces Command with Players Rooted in the Ministry of Defence and thus unfortunately dependent upon government funding to deliver the goods for success whenever clearly both the private and pirate sectors are not so confined and restrained and limited in field performance?

    And did you spot the deliberate mistake in the shared text of the Speech by General Sir Chris Deverell KCB MBE ADC Gen, Commander of Joint Forces Command delivered on: 10 October 2017 (Original script, may differ from delivered version) ....

    Whilst physical attributes such as firepower, mobility and protection continue to be important, information is becoming less of an enabling function, and more the decisive battleground, especially in an era of constant competition in which the boundaries between peace and war have become blurred.
    ..... for as we know, less is more.

    Will anyone know whenever jHub is stood up and fully operational in conflicted and contested fields and ..... well, non spectacularly fabulously effective and way out in front with Leading AI would be a right spooky result, methinks, which others would be hard pressed to replicate and emulate?

    And that question to General Sir Chris Deverell KCB MBE ADC Gen, Commander of Joint Forces Command c/o JFC.MOD

  27. ExpatZ

    Our leaders are morons.

    No, it couldn't.

    That isn't how the Internet works.

    The Internet was designed to have MULTIPLE hubs destroyed before there is a loss of services. It was designed to survive a nuclear war. Just cutting the trans Atlantic cables would do nothing to our access or communications. Nothing.

    This either shows how incredibly ignorant our leadership is or demonstrates how much they are willing to lie in order to demonize Russia.

    Probably both.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Our leaders are morons.

      But no one can route around a complete break. Just as water can't flow around a crevasse.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Our leaders are morons.

      Designed, yes.

      But then Business redesigned it. Cheap, fast reliable : pick any two.

  28. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Who will save us from the Russian bogeyman

    Who was it that once said the best way of distracting a population from problems at home was to start a foreign war. In order to do this you first have to talk up an evil enemy that only you can protect the people from.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      When the enemy is within, foreign bogeymen are to be constantly manufactured

      Who was it that once said the best way of distracting a population from problems at home was to start a foreign war. In order to do this you first have to talk up an evil enemy that only you can protect the people from. .... Walter Bishop

      Easily enough done in times with vast spaces filled with ignorance and lack of information, Walter Bishop, but impossible to do without one being personally identified as a warmonger worthy of both state special forces or non state terrorist attention whenever more intelligent souls are presenting different news and clearer views.

      A life in the shadows as a dead man walking with expensive and dodgy close protection/mercenary soldiers of fortune, who may or may not remain future wedded to their task, is just the start of that particularly peculiar moronic journey of bad choice.

      Just ask ex PM TB about the veracity of that observation and reality.

      Stupid is as stupid does, and different times and other spaces don't change the result and the price to be paid.

  29. herman Silver badge

    It's OK, the Prez Jimmy Carter sub can fix the cables again and bypass the Rusky taps with Merrican taps.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2008 -does anyone remember?

    Some of us are not so old that our memories are affected, but in 2008 there were 7(?) submarine cables cut - all very mysteriously. Even El Reg covered this: Egypt offline for weekend after Med seabed cables cut

    But the good Air Marshall seems to be begging for more money. Seriously, Russia has very little capacity to project power, or to act at a distance - Syria is the furthermost extent of its influence.

    It is worth noting that Qazaqstan is Russia's largest neighbour with a large ethnic Russian minority, and Russia is unable to protect that minority or exert any influence over the ruling elite. So, how much of a threat is Russia?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep, Russia could create a great deal of havoc if they cut undersea cables. Also, if they destroyed the chunnel. Even more if they nuked Parliament. There are a lot of problems Russia, and many other countries, could cause if they wanted to commit an act that was tantamount to a declaration of war.

    They won't cut the cables for the same reason they won't nuke Parliament; they don't really want to die in a nuclear holocaust, which would be a distinct possibility when the situation escalated through acts of retaliation.

    Some Middle East countries might be a different story, though.

  32. Simon Beckett

    Troll subs...

    ...are easy to find, just look under the nearest bridge. If necessary lure them out with a couple of goats.

  33. Excoriator

    Unconvincing threat

    As I understand it, the Internet is designed to withstand damaged cables, and simply reroutes the traffic. Unless they can cut them ALL, I can't see it making a lot of difference. It's worth noting that cables fail for many reasons, and they are simply repaired by a specialised cable repair ship.

    It is also worth noting that at this time of the year, defence spending is reviewed, and I suspect this has more to do with the defence industry worrying about further cuts! A good scare story often appears at this time of the year, and apart from the entertainment they give are best ignored.

    The 'threat' was originally invented by a right-wing 'think tank' called "The Policy Exchange" and seems to have been got up by a conservative MP whose name I have forgotten. He seems to be non-technical and has an MBA which according to his profile is his only qualification. I imagine the think tank is reflecting the industrial sector of the UK's military-industrial complex, with the General representing the military bit.

    As threats go, this one is about as convincing as a nine-bob note!

  34. Peter Cochrane

    This recent realisation is way out of context and nothing we haven't known since before WWII. Cables are cut every day by trawlers and the biggest ships dragging anchors to afford extra stabilsation in stormy weather. Much ado about nothing! Peter

  35. AdrianMontagu

    OMG - No facebook!

  36. mhenriday
    Pint

    Peach[es] and Italian cream ?

    Rather than some kind of high-tech interference, the main fear is that the Russians will simply drop anchor over a cable site and drag it through in order to sever the cable – as happened accidentally off the coast of Jersey last year thanks to the careless crew of an Italian-flagged gas tanker.
    Should not then Mr Peach, rather than towards the Russians who, even if they are dastardly, seem to have other fish to fry, direct his efforts towards preventing those inadvertent Italians from doing something which plunges the country into irreparable darkness, as we all recall happened last year ?...

    Henri

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the first things we did when WW1 was declared was to cut most of the German undersea telegraph cables, forcing them to use routes via 'friendly' territories that were easier to tap (the infamous Zimmerman Telegram was actually routed via Porthcurno in Cornwall)

  38. dncnvncd

    Anything for a buck, pound, Bitcoin

    This has been a known risk since the first cable was laid. As pointed out, a civilian accident is the most like;y source of interruption. However, acknowledging that contingency plans exist won't get increased funding. The Russians are probably trying to see if there is a rupture or weak spot emitting electromagnetic signals. Or maybe the Russians have developed a way to penetrate the insulation to either intercept or interrupt messages. In any case, it is not a threat that would be diminished by a whole new fleet of ships and planes. It would make defense contractors wealthier though.

  39. markquinnuk

    Why RUSSIA?

    Have Russia done anything to warrant these accusations being flung at them?

    Is this British army guy trying to stoke up this pretence that Russia is an enemy to the UK.

    This does nothing to help bring about a World where all humans live in peace together.

  40. dmargon

    id be more afraid of the u.s.a. than russia.. maybe more afraid of china.. somewhere in between.

  41. Bob Dole (tm)
    WTF?

    Whatever

    I can’t for the life of me come up with a single reason that Russia or China would engage in a direct war with the U.K. The only way they’d bother is if they somehow managed to completely cripple the US armed forces while still retaining their own operational capabilities.

    Sure, the cables are at risk. So what? Those are public wires. Every nation of consequence has communications satellites in orbit. I hardly think that the U.K. is actually using cables as opposed to sat communications with your armies.

    I guess cutting the cable would me GCHQ and the NSA couldn’t see what pr0n video you are watching but that’s about it.

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