U.S. Officials Fear ‘Aggressively Operating’ Russian Ships May Cut Critical Undersea Internet Cables

American military and intelligence officials have raised concerns over Russian submarines and spy ships located near key undersea cables that carry Internet traffic. The fear is that Russians may be planning to sever the fiber-optic cables at some point, and if they do that, it wouldn't be easy to repair them.

It's not unusual for undersea cables to be cut, though it's rarely malicious. In most cases, cuts are caused by anchors being dragged on the sea floor or simply by natural disasters, according to a 2012 study by Michael Sechrist, a former product manager for a Harvard-M.I.T. research project. Those types of cuts usually occur within a few miles from shore and can be repaired relatively fast.


That won't be the case if the Russians decide to damage a cable further out at sea. Repairing them would be both difficult and costly, with far more at stake than simply trying to access Facebook or other benign Internet activities. According to The New York Times, these cables are vital to global business operations worth more than $10 trillion a day. Financial institutions and other businesses are constantly conducting transactions through these cables, which carry all but 5 percent of daily communications.

U.S. officials aren't willing to talk specifically about what they're doing to monitor Russian activity, though they're not bashful about voicing their collective concern. And in private, NYT says commanders and intelligence officials have stated they're currently monitoring an uptick in Russian activities along known routes of undersea cables.

The sea is also home to special cables that are intentionally left off of maps. These are cables that are used for military operations, and some officials fear the Russians are in search of them as well.