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Internet speeds have never been faster and that's largely due to a vast network of underwater cables that connect each and every continent (with the exception of Antarctica). It's estimated that these cables carry 99 percent of international communications, the other 1 percent supplied by satellites (which are slower). That means every form of digital communication, confidential piece of data, and financial transaction. The U.S. Federal Reserve says that this vast network is responsible for carrying out $10 trillion worth of financial transactions every day.
Now, as tensions between the U.S. and Russia rise, intelligence officials are worried the cables will become a vulnerable point of attack. The New York Times has reported a big uptick in Russian submarine activity over a few vital cables in the Atlantic Ocean. Cables that are closer to the coastline are thicker, more protected, and easier to fix. Repairs are quite often needed. Damage caused by fishing vessels, ship anchors, and sharks is fairly common. However, cables deep in the middle of the ocean are comparably thinner, more vulnerable to damage, and more challenging to repair.
U.S. Naval intelligence officials are especially worried about the uptick in Russian naval activity. Damaging the cables could potentially compromise military intelligence, communications, and internet service. While the Russian navy has not initiated any sort of damage, it appears the fleet is making its power known in a forceful display.
Analyzing the Internet Collapse (technologyreview.com)
"Multiple fiber cuts to undersea cables show the fragility of the Internet at its choke points."
Submarine Cable Map
Undersea Cables Transport 99 Percent of International Data (newsweek.com)
"The vast network at the bottom of the ocean has also been the epicenter of international intrigue for decades."
9 things you didn't know about Google's undersea cable (computerworld.com)
"Undersea cables carry virtually all transoceanic Internet data these days, replacing satellites as the preferred medium."
How one clumsy ship cut off the web for 75 million people (theguardian.com)
"A flotilla of ships may have been dispatched to reinstate the broken submarine cable that has left the Middle East and India struggling to communicate with the rest of the world, but it took just one vessel to inflict the damage that brought down the internet for millions."