Terrorists could easily attack global economy by damaging submarine cables at well-known chokepoints
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The U.S. Department of Defense listed the world’s cable landing sites as among the most critical of infrastructures for the United States.183 Cable landing sites are concentrated in a few geographic areas due to high expense and economies of scale.184 According to one report, there are at least ten major cable chokepoints that exist globally.185 As observed by one commentator:
The most dangerous vulnerability is the aggregation of high-capacity bandwidth circuits into a small number of unprotected carrier hotels in which several hundred net- work operators interconnect their circuits in one non-secure building. These buildings often feed directly into the international undersea cable system. Security is often farcical. This lack of protection exists in several carrier hotels on transit points along the axis of the international telecommunications system that includes Dubai, Zurich, Frankfurt, London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.186
Apart from cable landing sites, another vulnerability is the vast network of submarine cables on the seabed itself. Telecommunications companies “concentrate a large percentage of overall bandwidth in just a few major cable systems because new cable designs also incorporate tremendous capacity.”187 Cables also tend to be bundled together, “offering a potentially lucrative, consolidated target for sabotage.”188 If a bundle of cables are severed all at once, it could result in responders having little to no chance of restoring the connection by rerouting the traffic to mitigate the effects of the cut.189 Due to the unpredictable ocean environment, there are obvious challenges in actually carrying out an attack, however, a disruption could occur as a result of something as simple as dropping an anchor on a cable or sending a scuba diver down to physically cut them (all cable routes are publicly available).190 Further, one scholar has pointed out the possibility of nefarious elements using an Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) to attack cables.191
Undersea cables are a valuable commodity in the 21st century global communication environment. The undersea consortium is owned by various international companies such as ATT, and these companies provide high-speed broadband connectivity and capacity for large geographic areas that are important entities of trade and communications around the globe. If undersea cables were cut or disrupted outside of the U.S.