June 20, 2024

Google, Meta warned that undersea internet cables at risk for Chinese espionage: report

Google, Meta warned that undersea internet cables at risk for Chinese espionage: report

The concerns are reportedly centered on underwater fiber-optic cables in the Pacific Ocean that are partially owned by the Big Tech firms and used to maintain the flow of data from the US to Asia.

US national security officials have reportedly warned Google, Meta and other firms that their undersea internet cables could be at risk of tampering by China-controlled repair ships.

The concerns are reportedly centered on underwater fiber-optic cables in the Pacific Ocean that are partially owned by the Big Tech firms and used to maintain the flow of data from the US to Asia. The difficult-to-access cables require maintenance from specialized firms, including some owned by China.

State Department officials have flagged concerns about a particular firm called SB Submarine Systems, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and has seemingly taken steps to hide the location of its repair ships by turning off their transponders, the Wall Street Journal reported.

SBSS
The Journal identified several incidents involving SBSS ships.S.B. Submarine Systems

The report, which cited unnamed officials familiar with the situation, said the feds are worried that any tampering with the cables could threaten US commercial and military data. Senior Biden administration officials have also reportedly received briefings on the concerns.

In one suspicious incident that took place in 2019, an SBSS vessel called the Bold Maverick purportedly turned its transponder on and off several times during a four-day period while floating in the same one-mile patch of ocean off the coast of Singapore.

Other instances in which SBSS ships disappeared from tracking systems occurred near Taiwan and Indonesia, the Journal reported, citing a review of shipping data.

SBSS is majority owned by state-controlled China Telecom, which was banned by the US in 2021 over national security concerns. One of the firm’s top executives is a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

The behavior of the SBSS-owned vessels is said to be unusual for cable repair ships – though one source familiar with the company said it was possible that poor satellite coverage was to blame.

US officials cited several potential causes for concern – including the possibility of intellectual property theft related to the undersea cable equipment, tapping into US data streams and identifiying military communication links.

The Post has reached out to Google, Meta and the State Department for comment.

The National Security Council said the security of undersea cables “is rooted in the ability of trusted entities to build, maintain, and repair” them “in a transparent and safe manner,” according to a statement provided to the Journal.

The use of satellites to track ships involved in the repairs “is one such measure that supports vessel monitoring and safety.”

The issue arose during a period of heightened tensions between the US and China. Western officials have repeatedly criticized Beijing for aggressive conduct toward Taiwan.

SB Submarine Systems describes itself on its website as “Asia‘s leading provider of submarine cable installation and maintenance solutions.” The company did not immediately return a request for comment.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, pushed back on the report.

“It is nothing wrong for Chinese companies to carry out normal business in accordance with the law,” he said. “We firmly oppose the U.S. to generalize the concept of national security and attack and smear Chinese companies.”

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| National Security

Cable Attack: New Undersea Threat Is Starting To Reshape Naval Wars

Cable Attack: New Undersea Threat Is Starting To Reshape Naval Wars – Naval News

The way that maritime drones are reshaping naval warfare is becoming clear in the Black Sea. One arena where they are likely to shine is in seabed warfare, itself mysterious and little understood.

The way that maritime drones are reshaping naval warfare is becoming clear in the Black Sea. But the extent to which their underwater cousins, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), will influence future wars is less so. One arena where they are likely to shine is in seabed warfare, itself mysterious and little understood.  

H I Sutton  28 Feb 2024

An unseen threat is lurking beneath the surface. The suspected Houthi attacks on undersea cables in the Red Sea are a timely reminder of a new reality. The age of seabed warfare, where undersea infrastructure will increasingly be targeted, has arrived.

Predicting the future is always tricky, yet the direction here is clear. Recent situations in the Baltic, North Sea, Black Sea and now the Red Sea point to a change in way wars, and hybrid warfare, will be fought. Attacks on undersea infrastructure will likely become more common, even expected.

A victim of future wars might be your internet connection when a cable is cut. Or your heating bill as a gas pipeline or electricity cable is blown up. And these events might take place thousands of miles away, and hundreds of meters below sea level. These new threats are not well understood.

A New Threat

It is tempting to point to historic incidents of seabed warfare. When Britain cut the German undersea telegraph cables at the outbreak of World War One. Or the U.S. Navy’s famous Operation Ivy Bells to tap Soviet undersea cables in the Cold War. But a lot has changed since then which has transformed this threat.

The world is ever more connected. Power, natural gas, oil, and of course the internet all rely on undersea infrastructure. And data centers and nuclear power plants could go the same way. Thanks to this connectivity, it is conceivable that an attack on an offshore wind farm in Sweden could be felt in electricity bills in Ireland. These are all susceptible to attack. Governments are only slowly coming to terms with this new dimension to naval warfare. 

The Seabed Is Ripe For Hybrid Warfare

The inherent ambiguity and indirect nature makes undersea infrastructure tempting targets for hybrid warfare. In the absence of a clear culprit, and slow process of attribution (if any), allows activists and cynical politicians can fill the void with misinformation. Many are only too willing to believe conspiracy theories and irresponsible speculation. 

Attacks can also be relatively unsophisticated. It can be by divers in shallow water, or by a ship dragging an anchor or fishing net. Even if the culprit is known, it can be difficult to prove that it was deliberate.

As well as sophisticated navies, small countries and non-state actors can leverage this. As is suspected in the Red Sea. Or the many incidents off West Africa. Hamas built uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) to target Israeli offshore natural gas infrastructure. That has yet to score a hit, but the threat is real.

Seabed Warfare As part of Future Hot Wars

It is now realistic that attacks on seabed infrastructure will be common in hot wars. It seems inconceivable that a Chinese attack on Taiwan wouldn’t involve at least threat of seabed warfare. The island is connected to America and the world by a finite number of undersea internet cables. Severing these would in effect disconnect the island, making defense and coordination much harder.

Historically, and right now, Russia is the most invested in offensive seabed warfare capabilities. It has a fleet of nuclear submarines designed to carry smaller nuclear submarines which can interfere with seabed infrastructure deep below the surface. This is complemented by specialist ships, most famously Yantar, and many other assets.

But it doesn’t necessarily require these traditional specialist assets. The increasing maturity of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) may shape those threat going forward. An AUV could be launched from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, approach its target unseen, and blow it up. It could locate the cable or pipe using sonar or any of a multitude of methods open to engineers and planners. And it could deposit a bomb, in the manner used for neutralizing mines, or simply blow itself up. 

Attacking seabed targets will never be easy. It is inherently more challenging than attacking above ground infrastructure. So it will require high quality intelligence and careful planning. But the technical means to achieve it is well within reach for most navies. And an increasing number of AUV manufactures have the requisite knowhow to built suitable vehicles. 

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JUST IN: Environmental Protection Agency Warns Of Major Cyberattacks To U.S. Water Systems

JUST IN: Environmental Protection Agency Warns Of Major Cyberattacks To U.S. Water Systems | The Gateway Pundit | by Alicia Powe

The national security of the United States will remain in perpetual jeopardy until the installed administration is out of office.

The national security of the United States will remain in perpetual jeopardy until the installed administration is out of office. Joe Biden is the laughing stock of the world as America’s enemies are ramping up the attacks.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an enforcement alert urging water systems to take immediate action to protect the nation’s drinking water from foreign cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks against water utilities across the country are becoming more frequent and severe, the agency announced Monday.

EPA officials warn approximately 70 percent of utilities inspected by federal officials over the last year violated standards designed to mitigate cyber threats.

As nation-states including Russia and Iran have impacted water systems of all sizes, even smaller water systems are being urged to improve protection against cyber attacks.

Water systems typically rely heavily on computer software to operate treatment plants and distribution systems.

The cybersecurity waters are deficient, as those running the systems failed to change default passwords or bar system access to former employees, the EPA states in the alert.

The agency notes that a cyber attack on US water systems could result in damage to pumps and valves, interruptions to water treatment and storage, and alteration of chemical levels to hazardous amounts.

EPA Deputy Administer Janet McCabe blasted water providers for the lackadaisical upkeep of cyber integrity.

“In many cases, systems are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, which is to have completed a risk assessment of their vulnerabilities that includes cybersecurity and to make sure that plan is available and informing the way they do business,” McCabe said.

Individuals and groups have targeted water provider’s networks for ages, often attacking websites. Now, attackers are targeting utilities’ operations and governments are intent on draining the supply of safe water to homes and businesses.

China, Russia and Iran are “actively seeking the capability to disable US critical infrastructure, including water and wastewater,” McCabe continued. “We want to make sure that we get the word out to people that ‘Hey, we are finding a lot of problems here.’”

In January, a hack linked to a Russian “hacktivist” group caused a small Texas town’s water system to overflow.

“Cyber Av3ngers,” a group linked to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, targeted multiple organizations including a small Pennsylvania town’s water provider late last year. The attack forced the water provider to switch from a remote pump to manual operations. The hackers were targeting a device produced by Israel and used by the utility on the heels of the latest Israel, Hamas war.

An estimated 150,000 community water providers serve small towns and cities nationwide.

On Monday, the White House sent a letter to US governors, warning that “disabling” cyberattacks targeting water systems are underway nationwide. The White House and the EPA invited state officials to a meeting slated for Thursday to address how to improve digital defense for the thousands of utilities.

The EPA is also establishing a waste sector cybersecurity task force to outline strategies to defend against the threat.

The letter also charged the Chinese-sponsored hacking group Volt Typhoon with targeting critical infrastructure sectors like drinking water in the U.S. as an example of the threat.

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