Underwater infrastructure: After Nord Stream sabotage: Will Europe’s underwater data cable be attacked? | news

Underwater infrastructure: After Nord Stream sabotage: Will Europe’s underwater data cable be attacked?  |  news

• Nord Stream Pipelines: Four gas leaks in Swedish and Danish economic zones

• Underwater infrastructure is difficult to monitor

• Sabotage or destruction of some underwater data cables would be a problem, but not a disaster


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Only recently, a total of four leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. All four leaks are located near the Danish island of Bornholm. Two of the leaks are said to have been in the Danish economic zone, the other two in the Swedish economic zone. Although the two pipelines were not in operation, for technical reasons they were still filled with gas, which escaped into the Baltic Sea after the leaks appeared. In the meantime, however, the gas leak has largely dried up. A Danish-Swedish report for the UN Security Council According to n-tv, underwater explosions with an explosive force equivalent to “hundreds of kilos” of explosives were the reason for the leaks in the pipelines. It has not yet been clarified who is responsible for the sabotage, but both Russia and Western countries are blaming each other.

How safe are Europe’s underwater data cables?

After the pipelines were sabotaged, the main focus is now on the underwater world. Important infrastructure for the world lies on the seabed, which is almost helpless in the face of attacks, since it is difficult to monitor it on the seabed, in international waters and sometimes at a depth of several thousand meters. Another attractive target for further sabotage could be the underwater data cables, as the Neue Züricher Zeitung explains. The entire Internet connection in the world and thus a large part of global communication depends on these cables. The reason for this is that cable connections are significantly faster and cheaper than the alternative via satellite.

However, until Russia attacked Ukraine, the biggest fear was not that the data cables would be sabotaged, but that data traffic would be spied on. In the past, the United States and Great Britain have already proven that they have the ability to spy on undersea cables. And Russia’s interest in cable infrastructure also seems to have increased in recent years. Accordingly, Russia has converted its nuclear submarines for espionage purposes, with which data cables can be manipulated or listening devices installed at a depth of more than 1,000 meters. In the last two years, Russian submarines are said to have appeared primarily in the waters around Great Britain and Ireland, where the transatlantic data cables connecting Europe and North America are located.

What happens when data cables are attacked?

At first, sabotaging or destroying an underwater data cable is not very difficult, as Collin Wall, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), explains, according to the Neue Züricher Zeitung. For Europe, the transatlantic data cables to North America are of particular importance, since Europe is dependent on these connections. The reason for this is that the majority of European data is stored in data centers in the USA. In addition, many online services used in Europe are based in the USA. Nevertheless, the Internet connection is not that easy to interrupt, since there is “great redundancy” in the underwater cables between Europe and the USA. David Belson from the network provider Cloudflare explains this to the Neue Züricher Zeitung. In total there are more than a dozen submarine cables between Europe and the USA. “If one or two of those are cut, you would probably notice that as a brief pause,” Belson continues. In addition, there are enough alternative routes to the USA, including, for example, via Africa or Asia. “Losing a few cables would be a problem, but not a disaster,” Belson said.

E. Schmal / Editor finanzen.net

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