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The Protection of Undersea Cables: A Global Security Threat

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Research paper

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Undersea cables are vital infrastructure to the global economy and the worlds communication system. Undersea cables account for 95 of the worlds international voice and data traffic Military, Government, Emergency Response, Air Traffic, Subway, Rail, and Port Traffic while satellites account for less than 5. The protection of these cables and their vulnerabilities to man-made and natural disruptions are important to the global community and in need of an overarching organization to coordinate information sharing among the various entities tasked to minimize cable disruptions. The lack of any agreed upon international, tiered protection scheme for global undersea cable routes or a global grid restoration plan represents a critical global infrastructure vulnerability. This Strategy Research Project recommends a new undersea cable regulatory regime potentially modeled after the Maritime Safety and Security Information system MSSIS. MSSIS was developed by the U.S. Navy Command Sixth Fleet and the U.S. Department of Transportations Volpe Center as an unclassified, multinational, freely shared, automatic identification system AIS network that tracks the location of merchant ships. MSSIS provides clients with real-time AIS data derived from shore side, waterborne, and airborne platforms. By sharing data on vessel locations near undersea cable locations, MSSIS participant countries can view a picture of the maritime domain that far exceeds the data they can gather alone. Currently, there are 69 countries around the globe sharing AIS data via MSSIS. If these countries are able to share and monitor data of cable locations, they have the capacity to prevent or mitigate a cable break by sending a warning message to the vessel from the regional operating center that monitors these particular cables.

Subject Categories:

  • Physical and Dynamic Oceanography
  • Submarine Engineering
  • Safety Engineering
  • Fiber Optics and Integrated Optics
  • Non-Radio Communications

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