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Undersea Cable Outage Would Be Catastrophic

April 21, 2010

A new survey is urging investors to create a worldwide backup for the network of underwater cables that are currently the backbone for nearly all online traffic and financial transactions.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) provided an executive summary of their report to the Reuters news agency on Tuesday. According to lead author Karl Rauscher, an alternate network infrastructure needs to be made in the case of an outage “before we have to learn the hard way.”

“This report is trying to have a September 10 mindset, where you actually do something about what you know on September 10 to avoid a September 11 situation,” Rauscher, a former U.S. cyber security advisor, told Reuters Security Correspondent William Maclean. “The impact of such a failure on international security and economic stability could be devastating.”

According to Maclean’s article, “It is unclear if civilization can recover from the failure of a technology that has been so rapidly adopted without a backup plan”¦ Without (the network), the world’s economic financial market would immediately freeze.”

The report cites many different possible events that could cause such a global outage, ranging from piracy to terrorist activity. The concern is not unprecedented, according to Maclean, who notes that “recent failures include breaks in three submarine cables linking Europe and the Middle East, which disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia in December 2008.”

The IEEE, which dubs itself “the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity,” is an international non-profit organization that focuses on advancing electricity-related technology. The group was founded in 1963 and currently boasts over 395,000 members from 150 different nations.

Image Caption: Five submarine communication cables crossing the Scottish shore at Scad Head on Hoy, Orkney. Courtesy Wikipedia

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