Internet Fiber Backbone Lines Under Physical Attack In San Francisco

Usually when we hear of Internet cables being cut, it's due to curious (or hungry) sea creatures or ships accidentally severing them in the ocean. That's not the case in San Francisco. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into ongoing physical attacks on bundles of high-capacity Internet cables, the latest of which took place on Tuesday.

Apparently this has been going on for a year and includes at least 11 malicious incidents. Federal agents confirmed to USA Today that the Tuesday attack disrupted Internet service for businesses and residential customers in Sacramento and surrounding areas.

Fiber Optic Cables

"When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing," FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said. "We definitely need the public's assistance."

The FBI is only willing to say so much because the investigation is ongoing. However, it's known that the Tuesday attack involved someone breaking into an underground vault and severing three fiber-optic cables. They belonged to Level 3 and Zayo, both of which are ISPs located in Colorado.

While unfortunate, these types of incidents aren't unprecedented. Cables at four sites in California were maliciously cut back in April 2009, and early this year, tens of thousands of Arizona residents lost Internet service when someone cut underground cables.

What's frightening about the attacks is that they're concentrated in one region of the country. Rock Security CEO JJ Thompson says that could mean attackers are "testing out capabilities, response times, and impact."