By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
PARIS/LONDON (Worthy News) – Authorities are investigating cuts to several European undersea cables linking the world to the internet and phone services amid concerns that Russia targets Western communications.
French police said they are looking into massive damage to fiber-optic cables in France’s second-largest city.
Operators said the severed cables link Marseille to other cities in France and Europe and that internet and phone services were severely disrupted in recent days.
France has become the main entry point for the internet in continental Europe, with some 30 cables reaching its shores.
About half of these are crucial as they enable communication across the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, down through the Red Sea, and into Asia, experts say.
Cybersecurity company Zscaler said the cuts “impacted major cables with connectivity to Asia, Europe, (the) U.S., and potentially other parts of the world.”
The damage also slowed some network traffic from Europe to India, company CEO Jay Chaudhry said.
Opinions vary on how many of these strategic fiber-optic cables, especially those underwater, would have to be cut for Europe to face a widespread internet blackout.
Yet the recent sabotage of two natural gas pipelines from Russia in the Black Sea underscored the vulnerability of underwater fiber-optic cables.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks against the Nord Stream energy pipelines.
However, American and European officials blame Moscow saying the labyrinthine network of undersea cables that power the global internet could be an inviting target. Russia denies wrongdoing.
Almost simultaneously with France, Shetland, the Scottish archipelago across the sea from Norway and 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of mainland Britain, became even more remote.
An underwater cable broke in the area, cutting off communications for the roughly 23,000 people who call the islands home.
The troubles led to internet and mobile phone outages and companies racing against the clock to restore connectivity as the world faces questions about securing communications.
British and American military officials warned Russia has the technical skills to attack the world’s undersea internet infrastructure to cripple Western digital networks as tensions rise over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The cables are often located less than 100 meters underwater and would require either a submarine or uncrewed vehicle to plant explosives at critical points of the network.
While France has allocated millions of euros to improve the protection of undersea cables, critics say Western powers have to do more to secure the cables.
France’s 2023 budget, which is currently being debated in parliament, includes nearly 3.1 million dollars for “ocean floor” defense.
Paris reportedly also invested 11 million dollars in acquiring two uncrewed underwater vehicles to protect the infrastructure, to be operational by next year.
Nearly all of the world’s internet traffic comes across a global network of over 400 fiberoptic pipes that span about 1.3 million kilometers (some 808,000 miles), according to official estimates.
They are almost exclusively operated by private companies like Google and Microsoft, France’s Alcatel Submarine Networks, and, increasingly, China’s Huawei Marine Networks.
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