Treasury Hits Russian FSB for Underwater Reconnaissance of Internet Cables

An undersea fiber optic cable

An undersea fiber optic cable / Getty Images

 

Moscow plans to attack undersea cables in future conflict

The Treasury Department on Monday announced the imposition of economic sanctions against Russian entities engaged in targeting undersea internet cables and cyber spying inside critical U.S. infrastructures.

The department announced sanctions on five companies and three Russians linked to the Federal Security Service, the main Kremlin intelligence service, known as the FSB, that has been linked to Russian election meddling in 2016.

For the first time, Treasury revealed one of the sanctioned companies, Divetechnoservices, has worked with the FSB since 2007 to spy on underwater cables used to connect the internet around the world.

Russia has been active in tracking undersea communication cables which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data,” the department said in announcing the sanctions.

The Russian underwater equipment company in 2011 was paid $1.5 million by the FSB to procure a submersible craft for underwater cable spying.

Treasury officials declined to comment further on Russian underwater reconnaissance activities.

American defense officials, however, have said Russia has been aggressively probing undersea cables in the Atlantic over the past several years.

Russia’s Yantar intelligence-gathering ship, which makes annual forays to the U.S. East Coast, is believed to be conducting reconnaissance of undersea cables, according to defense officials.

The Washington Free Beacon reported in 2015 that the Yantar is equipped with deep-sea surveillance craft and cable cutting equipment. The ship was engaged in identifying undersea cable trunk lines and nodes.

Pentagon intelligence officials said one major target of the Russian underwater reconnaissance is identifying links used by the Department of Defense Information Network, or DoDIN, which uses dedicated military links and leased communications and computer systems.

The underwater surveillance also has been detected in European waters.

The surveillance has raised fears among intelligence and security officials that Moscow is preparing to cut undersea internet cables in a future crisis or conflict to disrupt targeted nations, like the United States or the nations of Europe.

Severing underwater internet cables would severely disrupt the highly networked U.S. military as well as civilian populations.

The internet is connected around the world through a series of undersea cables. Several major international internet cables enter the United States through the East Coast, including through New York and near Washington.

The newsletter Defense One reported recently that an accidentally severed undersea cable in the Mediterranean 10 years ago forced the U.S. military to curtail drone operations in Iraq.

“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces told the Washington Post in December. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

In Europe, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chief of British defense staff, warned in December that attacks on undersea cables could produce catastrophic results on economies.

“There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he said in a speech, adding that NATO has made protecting the cables a priority.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that Divetechnoservices has been supporting underwater gear for the FSB since 2007.

The three Russians slapped with sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act were officials of Divetechnoservices. They include the company’s general director, Aleksandr Lvovich Tribun, program manager Oleg Sergeyevich Chirikov, and owner and former director Vladimir Yakovlevich Kaganskiy.

Full article: Treasury Hits Russian FSB for Underwater Reconnaissance of Internet Cables (Washington Free Beacon)

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