Someone in Northern California apparently doesn’t like the Internet. According to multiple media sources, the FBI has been called in to help investigate a series of physical attacks on fiber optic cables in the San Francisco Bay area, including a recent attack that disrupted Internet service at several businesses and residential buildings in central San Francisco early Tuesday.
More on Internet cables cut in San Francisco
Authorities are reporting there have been at least 11 physical attacks on fiber optic cables in at least 10 Bay area cities (including Fremont, Berkeley, San Jose, and Walnut Creek) over the last year, stretching back to early July of 2014.
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In an interview with USA Today, FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich noted: “When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing,” Wuthrich said. “We definitely need the public’s assistance.”
The most recent attack was at 4.20 a.m. PT on Tuesday was particularly problematic as it involved a coordinated strike on three Internet cables owned by providers Level 3 and Zayo. The Internet cable cut led to a major service outage for those living in the Sacramento area for most of the day. Local Internet providers reported all service was back up by around 11:30 PM Tuesday.
The incidents are worrisome as they seem to have moved beyond mere vandalism, and is leading serious concerns regarding the security of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.
Of note, cutting these lines requires specialized tools to cut through a tough outer layer. Wuthrich points out the attacks have all occurred in remote areas with no cameras, and in some cases the crimes may have been committed by perpetrators dressed as utility workers who entered the underground vaults containing the cables.
Bay area has seen multiple Internet cable attacks in the last few years
Law enforcement also noted that the Bay area has been a hotbed for attacks on technology infrastructure over the last few years. Back on April 9th of 2009, fiber-optic cables at four separate locations were damaged affecting more than 50,000 people in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, based on a story in The San Francisco Chronicle. Just a couple of years ago, in April 16, 2013, vandals cut cables and shot at several electrical transformers outside of San Jose, doing over $15 million in damage to the equipment and causing local outages.