- The Washington Times - Monday, October 26, 2015

U.S. defense and intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Russia may opt to secretly sever undersea fiber-optic cables, the likes of which could sabotage communications systems and capital the world over, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

More than a dozen government officials told The Times that the U.S. and its allies have raised questions in recent weeks about expanded Russian naval activity and the possible repercussions that could arise if an attack is waged on any which section of the vast cables that carry nearly all Internet communications and financial transactions.

“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, told The Times.

The “ultimate Russian hack” on the U.S. wouldn’t be a Stuxnet-like attack on its nuclear infrastructure, or even a data breach beyond the scope of the high-profile compromises that have caused millions of financial records and other information to be accessed by hackers, The Times said. Instead, the Russians stand to inflict even more in terms of damage if an undersea cable in a hard-to-reach location is sufficiently severed, officials fear.

Undersea cables are responsible for more than $10 trillion in business that occurs on the Internet each day by way of constant financial transactions and transmission of 95 percent of the world’s daily communications, The Times said.

But because the U.S. government’s assessment of Russian military activity is highly classified, military and intelligence sources could only suggest through broad language or without being quoted that the prospect of a mission targeting undersea cables is a very real concern, the newspaper reported.

“[F]rom the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to American shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce,” The Times said.

Coupled with the Kremlin’s aggressive behavior in eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Syria under President Putin, increased Russian naval activity — even if benign up until now — has rekindled concerns among western allies unseen since the fall of the Soviet Union, officials told the newspaper.

“The level of activity is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War,” a senior European diplomat told The Times.

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