Rising geopolitical tensions and data demands increase risks for undersea cables

Cyberattacks and surveillance attempts present significant challenges to global internet traffic, communications, and financial systems.

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Geopolitical developments such as the Russia-Ukraine war, tensions between the United States and China, and the insatiable demand for data are driving up the risks for undersea communication cables, according to the ‘The Escalating Global Risk Environment for Submarine Cables‘ report, published by Recorded Future.

The threats include cyberattacks and attempts to tap into the cables for surveillance purposes. Submarine cables are crucial for global internet traffic, communications, military operations, and finance. The report highlights the growing concerns about digital surveillance due to the involvement of Chinese state-owned enterprises as cable owners and providers. The report suggests that Russia has exhibited intentions to map the submarine cable system, possibly with the aim of conducting sabotage. Such attacks could result in varying impacts, from occasional disruptions to extensive outages lasting for days or weeks.

Nation states pose the greatest threat of intentional sabotage and spying, while non-state actors pose a lower likelihood threat. State actors seeking intelligence advantages will likely target the entire submarine cable ecosystem, including landing stations, cables, third-party providers, and associated hardware and software. The report warns that as the demand for data increases, the importance of submarine cables will continue to grow, introducing new complexities and opportunities for threat actors to exploit.