Undersea Cables: The Backbone of Global Internet Infrastructure
According to Enisa agencies, up to 97% of the total internet traffic generated worldwide passes through submarine online cables at certain moments. These cables are vital components of the global internet infrastructure, making their protection against cyber attacks, physical influence, and other threats crucial.
A disruption in the functionality of underwater cables, even for a short period, can lead to large-scale cybersecurity incidents. Vulnerabilities in this infrastructure exist at the cable access stations and high-concentration underwater zones.
Repairing underwater cables is a complex and time-consuming process that requires specialized vessels.
According to the 2022 report by the International Cable Protection Committee, most cable incidents are random and typically caused by anchor and fishing activities. However, there is a growing trend of increased internet traffic passing through these cables, resulting in higher loads and occasional failures.
The potential for malicious intent should also not be overlooked. While cable tapping at sea depths may be unlikely, data access at the cable accessories is a real and relevant threat.
Underwater cables fall under the jurisdiction of various regulatory regimes, laws, and authorities. Nationally, telecommunication bodies, cybersecurity agencies, border guards, and the military may be involved in their protection. In the private sector, the ecosystem of underwater cables includes cable owners, operators, suppliers, and maintenance companies.
Enisa has released this report to assist EU national bodies responsible for overseeing telecommunications networks and key internet infrastructure. Underwater cables are specifically mentioned in the NIS2 directive and should be considered in national cybersecurity strategies.
Despite the apparent reliability of the global network, it remains vulnerable to natural phenomena and human actions. Safeguarding the security and reliability of