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Danger beneath the sea. Future war will be a war for the cables
Material posted: Publication date: 20-01-2018
Network, our favorite time killer, hidden in the woods. And underwater cables that carry our data are unprotected in the mud at the bottom of the sea. And that our connection is threatened.

It was the most ambitious construction project ever saw the world, and which, being almost invisible, had to completely change the world. The successful laying of a Telegraph cable across the Atlantic in 1858, was a bold idea of a young American millionaire named Cyrus field (Cyrus W. Field).

A year earlier, the company has already failed. The cable broke, the money was wasted, and the press, which first dwelt in a state of euphoria, was now full of sarcastic ridicule. However, the field officer of the naval US Navy Matthew Fontaine Maury (Matthew Fontaine Maury) and inventor Samuel Morse (Samuel Morse) never wanted to give up. In July 1858 the British ship HMS Agamemnon and the American USS Niagara in the fourth and last time out in the Atlantic.

They met in the middle and wove the ends of the cable, the total length of which amounted to 4,000 kilometers. Then from there they went in the opposite direction, the crews carefully lowered into the depths of the Atlantic copper wire, protected by a shell. On each vessel was 1 500 tons of gutta-percha wire insulation (wire insulation of this rubber is the new invention by Werner Siemens) (Werner Siemens). This time the cable is finally, apparently, survived. The USS Niagara is back in Newfoundland and HMS Agamemnon — in Ireland, where already stood ready cable station.

It was a great moment. The first transatlantic telegram was from Queen Victoria to US President Buchanan, jubilation knew no bounds. The London times (Times) wrote about a "giant expansion" of the possibilities of mankind: "Atlantic became the land and we really can connect with each other. We become one country."

The fact that the first connection between the Old and the New world lasted only 15 days between the transmitted and letters took 2 minutes, didn't matter. It all started, in 1900, almost the whole world was wired. And he is today. Everyone who sends an email or watch Netflix or looking for something in Google, does it with the help of underwater cables.

Approximately 97% of all Internet traffic go across the seabed. Modern data cables are no longer copper wires in the rubber sheath, these cables consist of thin hair of an optical fiber inside cables, copper pipes, aluminum, steel cables and synthetic fibers. Then, as now, they lie unprotected on the seabed, thick as garden hoses or cans of Coca-Cola (in shallow areas, they besides protect and shell).

Usually hardly anyone in the world interested in these 350 cables, they are just not visible. The backbone of the Internet is not as attractive as companions, it lies in the silt of the seabed in eternal darkness. From time to time sharks bite the cables, they damage fishing nets or earthquake. In such cases the scene of the accident sent the court a special cable and instantly fix the damage, because without modern transmission lines, it is impossible to imagine Internet and international telephone calls.

But now another danger threatens our continuous communication. Just before Christmas, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeinen, Sonntagszeitung" (Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung), recently, a Russian submarine is clearly walking in close proximity to the undersea cables between Europe and the United States. Transatlantic cables are cables which are still referred to the large amount of data and are vital to NATO countries.

Marine cable important, he brought America to Europe after Cyrus field 160 years ago lowered it to the bottom of the Atlantic. Its first transatlantic umbilical cord the world is indebted to Matthew Fontaine Maury, who on behalf of the Navy USA made a map of the Atlantic, Samuel Morse who invented the Morse code, and last but not least to Cyrus Field, who had the idea and money. Author Simon Winchester (Simon Winchester) in his cultural history of the Atlantic compares them with the "blind people that of flying a jet plane, dropping the wires to the Himalayas or the Alps."

The murder of US President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 the Old World learned only after 12 days, the cable broke again. The Telegraph could in a matter of minutes or seconds to send a message between continents. The second message by the first transatlantic cable of 1858 was, however, economic news: the shipping company Cunard announced its collision of ships, the Europa and Arabia.

Modern, computerized and global capitalism is inconceivable without the undersea cables. A signal from London to new York is eight times longer than the signal transmitted via satellite instead of cable. That's a lot. In the capital markets milliseconds decides on win or loss. Expert Barnet Douglas (Douglas Burnett) believes that banks every day through a cable transfer data, the value of which is equivalent to one trillion dollars.

The seabed is like a Petri dish for modern capitalism, the cables are extensively branched mycelium, its original premise. When communication networks fail, the financial world is not what stops his activities, he freezes. "The entire global economy rests on the stable use of underwater communications infrastructure," reads one study. But nobody talks about the age of the cable.

The more data we generate without the cable, the more we become dependent on cables. It's a paradox: the more data filling occurs without wires, the more wires required. The idea that soon we will live in a world without cables, is not true. Innovation of the "Internet of things" where every toaster is constantly connected to the Internet, and cloud data distributed across vast farms of servers, the so-called "clouds", all this only increases our dependence on buried in the ground and lowered under water fiber optic cable.

That now the military again forced Western society to think about the cables, makes historical sense. The cold war did technology resistant to weather phenomena. Since the fifties of the cable stations and recharge were removed from the big cities to the periphery, for example, from San Francisco in the small San Luis Obispo, from Honolulu, Hawaii in O AHU, only to withdraw them from the centers. This was the logic of nuclear war: flexibility and diversification were the trump card, even if the cost was slightly more. It was the time when telecommunications were primarily a matter of state enterprises.

This route wiring has hardly been changed, the cables are laid mainly along the routes of the old Telegraph lines. In the mid 19th century almost nothing was known about the bottom of the sea. The first Telegraph cables hung as a huge clothesline between the peaks of underwater mountain ranges. The Victorian age had amazing views on the sea bottom. Some scientists believed that cables, ships and animals will not fall to the bottom of the sea, because the water with increasing depth becomes more and more dense. But covered with silt cables, which rose from the sea for repair, argued that it was not so.

The seabed is and remains terra incognita. If you find a safe route of, then it stops. So there was the needle lugs and bottle necks. About the danger that lies here, the information the company rarely ask, but then they become very persistent. Hurricane "sandy", which in autumn 2012 has hit the US East coast, knocked out some important lines of communication. "It was a serious problem. A common network between North America and Europe went down for a few hours," recalls Manager Microsoft Frank ray (Frank Rey), Director, global network strategy, responsible for the cloud infrastructure of the group software. "The hurricane has revealed a potential problem with the consolidation of the transatlantic cables, they all went out on dry land in new York or new Jersey".

Microsoft along with Facebook and telecommunications company Telxius invested directly in the new cable, which was on the new route between Spain and Virginia. Marea is the strongest cable in the Atlantic. This month he sends up to 160 terabytes per second, which corresponds to 71 million HD-Videos, the flow of which is parallel. Thus, in the future will be provided with video chats and watching Netflix. But, like all other digital cables, Marea laid in the open sea at an average depth of 3600 meters.

Private companies lay the cables according to their calculations, but can these firms to protect them? "Before deregulation, writes in one study of American rear Admiral Michael Mathis (Michael Mathis), underwater cables was much more secure." This is currently a retired naval officer, described in a single message 2012 how fragile superpower: "All cables are the USA, except for one TRANS-Atlantic, go on land within a radius of 30 miles. The situation is similar with the Pacific cables."

If NATO in their fear? Depends on whether our way of life from one silk — sorry — glass fiber? Starosielski Nicole (Nicole Starosielski), Professor, new York University, for his book "Underwater network" (The Undersea Network) had spent years researching the hidden world of submarine cables. She knows how fragile this network. And she is really fragile: "For the U.S. government (or any government) is not difficult to physically disconnect the entire international telecommunications," she writes.

© David Monniaux
Stacker submarine cable "René Descartes" fleet "France Telecom"

Also looking at it and the rear Admiral: Navy the US is no more submarines, which could service the cables at greater depths. Automatic underwater vehicles that are used by cable companies, you cannot apply for fixation of the cable, which can easily be cut. Mighty NATO when it comes to digital cables is completely helpless.

Network, our favorite time killer, vulnerable. Maybe we made a wrong submission? The one who mentally sees the network, sees it, thanks to postmodernism, primarily as a root structure that is constantly expanding and, thanks to the numerous cross-relations, remains impervious to destruction. Reflections on marine cables show that it is not. The Internet has a specific physical structure, which is determined by the topography of the Earth: the oceans, volcanoes and earthquake zones and shipping lines, from which to deviate, and the global unions.

The resulting network is not the same everywhere, and that is where it is strong, it raises doubts. For example, the island of Taiwan, the bone of contention of the superpowers China and the United States, is a key point of data. Cables Taiwan in case of war would be the main purpose of the Chinese army. One cable station the island communicates with the US and Pacific space. The second from South-East Asia and Australia. Natural disasters show how fragile everything is. When in December 2006 Taiwan earthquake, nine were damaged cables. Eleven repair vessels during the 49 days was engaged in their repair.

Cable breaks affected the banking and communications, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines. And it was an unintentional act, it was a natural disaster. What if far out to sea ten cables will be cut into small pieces, as is usually the cut spaghetti for young children? From the Taiwanese economy soon, little will remain.

Future war will be a war for the cables. The message about the Russian submarines that are under water, you can overhear the West or anywhere to turn off Netflix and stock trading, has worked remarkably effectively on the media. While the Americans showed the Russian how it works.

Since 1971, over ten years, the U.S. has obtained information by connecting to important the data cable of the Soviet Navy in the sea of Okhotsk. Operation Ivy Bells violated international law and were conducted in the sovereign territory of the Soviet Union. She became known only thanks to one analyst of the NSA, which was bought by the Russians and received a 30 year prison sentence.

As for the NSA, when the former NSA employee Edward Snowden (Edward Snowden) in 2013, made his exposure, the world has become known that the British secret service with its programme Tempora is connected to transatlantic cables and listens to all that concerns conversations and data transmission, including the fact that it comes from Germany.

What is the threat to digital freedom of the West is more dangerous — external or internal? Western secret services have received data from the cables to which they connect. But the fact that the enemy can cut the thread that connects the whole world, remains only a grim assumption. And the last hope of our Luddite — that's what that stupid Internet ever after all will be finished.

Boris Pofalla (Boris Pofalla)


Tags: Russia , Europe , China

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