Home » Data cables torn down in the Red Sea. The nightmare of a Houti attack on global communications

Data cables torn down in the Red Sea. The nightmare of a Houti attack on global communications

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Data cables torn down in the Red Sea.  The nightmare of a Houti attack on global communications

A shiver runs through the headquarters of the entire NATO and raises fears that a new form of war has begun. There are no official confirmations yet, but news of a… has been circulating since yesterday morning attack led by the Houthis against the submarine fiber optic cables that connect Europe to Asia via Africa in the Red Sea. These networks laid on the seabed are literally the raw nerve of the West: our digital life passes through them, that is, 97 percent of web and telephone communications and the data exchanges on which our activities depend. They are very fragile: an anchor or a team of divers is enough to shear them.

Fundamentalist militiamen threatened to attack them two weeks ago. Yesterday the Israeli specialized site Globe claimed that they would take action against four cables, belonging to the companies AAE-1, Seacom, EIG and TGN. The damage would be significant but not dramatic, because the existence of other pipelines along the same route would have allowed data traffic to be redirected. The repairs, however, will require at least eight weeks and will be particularly demanding: the sabotage would have occurred in the stretch of sea between the Saudi port of Jeddah and Djibouti. An area where drones and missiles launched by the Houthis have been targeting naval traffic for months: there have also been two raids in the last few hours.

The targeted cables belong to consortia with significant stakes in US or UK companies. The Eig one connects Europe with India, passing through Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates: the installation cost 700 million dollars. More surprising is the attack on AAE-1, which unites China to Europe through Pakistan, Iran and Qatar: among the shareholders there are the Unicom of Beijing, as well as British Telecom, Vita e Etisalat. In general, the Shiite guerrillas have avoided hostile actions towards China and allow its merchant ships to pass undisturbed in front of the Yemeni coast.

The news relaunched by Jerusalem Post has not been confirmed by state institutions. A site that monitors web connections highlights an anomalous collapse in flow from the Djibouti data center just yesterday morning. An attack of this kind, however, is not surprising, because it now represents the nightmare of NATO navies. And there is a disturbing precedent: last October the gas pipeline pipes were torn up in the Baltic between Finland and Estonia Balticconnector and a fiber optic cable. Investigations by the Helsinki authorities have verified that the destruction was the work of a Chinese container ship, an icebreaker designed for the Arctic route, which dredged the seabed for kilometers with a colossal anchor. The investigation must establish whether it was an accident or a deliberate act.

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If protecting energy pipelines is difficult, defending cables is almost impossible. They are as large as a garden watering hose and have a total length estimated at one million four hundred thousand kilometers with 574 main arteries: near the coast they are often found at a depth of about ten metres. The lower they are, the easier it is to repair them: if the fault occurs in the depths, the interventions are very complex. All Western fleets are taking action. The Royal Navy has even introduced a specialized ship for the surveillance of underwater networks, which will act as a “mother” to a series of drones. Our Navy has purchased a Norwegian remote-controlled mini submarine that will monitor at fifty meters: it already has two others in service, capable of diving to three thousand meters. Nobody has any illusions: we are facing a new dimension of conflict.

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