Russia’s navy may be plotting a secret submarine attack that would shut down the world’s financial markets, disrupt the global economy and paralyze communications by cutting cables deep underneath the sea, Pentagon and intelligence officials say.
As reported by The New York Times, officials are worried because Russian spy ships and submarines are operating near undersea fiber-optic cables that carry much of the world’s data. In a sea thousands of miles wide, such maneuvers are rarely coincidental.
The cables carry business transactions worth more than $10 trillion a day, the newspaper said. Additionally, more than 95 percent of communications each day takes place on the cables.
“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” Rear Admiral Frederick J. Roegge, the commander of the US submarine fleet in the Pacific, told The Times.
The data going through such cables includes stock and commodities transactions, banking information, news, financial data, and email.
If the cables were to be cut, major financial markets including those in New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai would shut down. Major banking transactions, including credit card purchases, would be severed.
During World War I, one of the first actions of Britain’s Royal Navy was to cut undersea cables that connected Germany with the United States, Africa, and South America. The British cut the cables so they could control the flow of information in and out of Germany.
In September of this year, a Russian spy ship, the Yantar, cruised off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba, where one major cable resides, The Times reported. The ship carries two deep-sea submersible craft.
“The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area,” Michael Sechrist, a former researcher at Harvard and MIT, told The Times.
He believes that the Russians could cut the cables with undersea drones and nobody would notice.
Naval officers are concerned because the Russians appear to be searching for vulnerabilities in the cables deep below the surface of the ocean. Cables get cut “all the time,” Sechrist said, although those accidents take place close to the shore and are easier to repair. A cable cut deep in the middle of the ocean would be different.
“Undersea cables tend to follow the similar path since they were laid in the 1860s,” Sechrist said.
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