Cyberattacks via Submarine

Some minimal information about the NSA's abilities to hack networks via submarine.

Posted on August 12, 2016 at 12:48 PM • 19 Comments

Comments

Rackham le RougeAugust 12, 2016 1:15 PM

I can easily see how subs are used to carry out cyber attacks, primarily by intercepting submarine cables, but in what way do they ever "act defensively to protect [...] the country from digital attack"?

ShooAugust 12, 2016 3:04 PM

hmmmm .... this is interesting given the recent vote in the UK parliament regarding future funding for nuclear subs. One point argued by some folks was that 'cyber terrorism' is making subs redundant. Leaving aside any moral arguments in favor/against subs, they obviously ain't designed to be one trick ponies.

SchneieronSecurityFanAugust 12, 2016 3:55 PM

Reminds me of a report from the early to mid 1990s describing an "AWACS"-style plane that had an "offensive" cyber capability i.e., certain types of attacks were probably only possible from flight. The same may hold true about the submarine. Maybe, a type of man-in-the-middle attack that would only be possible from an undersea cable. Also, the submarine could have a Narus-type recorder on-board.

echoAugust 12, 2016 4:40 PM

That's the most embarrassing clickbait propaganda I've seen since... well, this morning.

DroneAugust 13, 2016 5:41 AM

"In some cases, the government has struck closed-door deals with the cable operators ensuring that U.S. spies can gain secure access to the information traveling over those pipes.)"

This is very bad news for us, especially after seeing how the current Administration has illegally used information and government agencies to attack its potential political opponents. I no longer trust the U.S. Government with any sort of information.

albertAugust 13, 2016 9:29 AM

Rackham,

You're quoting the young folks who wrote the article. The Admiral said: "...an offensive capability that we are, that we prize very highly,...". Disrupting communications might be considered 'defensive', while destroying communication system might be considered 'offensive'.

There are different kinds of submarine cable systems. The fiber types now have 'light amplifiers'. There are ways to disrupt them without damage. It's trivial to damage undersea cables.

. .. . .. --- ....

Marcos MaloAugust 13, 2016 11:27 AM

I'm fondly remembering the days of Submarine Races. Before there were backdoor exploits, there were backseat exploits. We all longed for a good zero day backseat exploit.

ResponderAugust 13, 2016 11:08 PM

Rackham le Rouge: The subs might be acting defensively by patrolling critical undersea cables so that they aren't cut.

ianfAugust 14, 2016 12:06 AM


Patroling static assets/ cable lines is more a job for submarine drones, than manned subs. Last year or so a "unnamed origin" robot torpedo got snared in the moorings cables off a oil(?) platform in the Baltic, later revealed to have been a Russian inspection drone for the NordStream pipeline. But, because they're far cheaper to research and construct, Russia presumably also develops more offensive types of submersible nuclear delivery vehicles, as per this report:  http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/submarines/2015/11/13/russia-leaks-dirty-bomb-submarine-drone-state-tv-broadcast/75710806/

rAugust 14, 2016 12:12 AM

@ianf,

Good point and thanks for the link, the Mars rover runs on a plutonium battery like that.

ianfAugust 14, 2016 2:25 AM


RULE #1 OF THE SCHNEIER BLOG

You don't thank anyone for posted links, you expect them.

(Otherwise the attention whores among us will be posting tons of gratuitous links just for such ego-stroking feedback).

a longtime readerAugust 14, 2016 9:47 AM

Unnumbered guideline of the "Schneier on Security" blog's comment section:

This is not the "ianf" blog.

Commenters are not required to follow ianf-promulgated rules.

Administrators are not required to scan for ianf-posted demands and perform demanded actions.

blakeAugust 15, 2016 5:14 AM

@Shoo

> the recent vote in the UK parliament regarding future funding for nuclear subs ... they obviously ain't designed to be one trick ponies

The implication is that *nukes* are more publicly acceptable than offensive hacking capabilities? Trident wasn't discussed as an EW platform with a bonus option of some missiles...

yoshiiAugust 16, 2016 2:25 PM


The implication is that *n*kes* are more publicly acceptable than offensive hacking capabilities? Trident wasn't discussed as an EW platform with a bonus option of some missiles...

We live in some strange times.
I don't 100% comprehend what is being discussed as I haven't yet read the article and I'm just browsing the comments. Yet, if I understand part of what you said, I agree that it's pretty insane how people's priorities are messed up when considering both risks and the potential effects of accidents.

There's not enough education happening yet.

We really need another Peace Movement, like in the 1960s and 1970s.
There's not yet enough cultural counterbalancing to the chaotic risky nonsense.
There is some, but with all these geopolitical changes and troubles, we REALLY need a regenerated Peace Movement with modern sensibilities, and not stained and crippled by the illogic of substance abuse and unsafe sex.

It really makes no sense whatsoever for some technologies to exist when they threaten our existence and everyone else's too. Rational life-interested peoples need more solidarity and nodes and leverages to prevent collossally bad horiffic devastating terminating events from happening.

People who are in the psychology and business of war and politics probably often (but not always) lack the insights as to how to divest from suicidal/genocidal/homocidal/geocidal aggression technologies.

More tools(?NOT) of destruction don't make any of the several billions of us safer.

And the 1980s efforts to trick and/or stroke of pure luck resulting in other nations going into bankrupture due to military overspending can't be counted on working a second time on so many other nations, including ours.

"Hold yOUR fire."
Or, as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, once said,
"Lay Down Your Funky Weapon."

Coexist to ensure that existence is always possible.
And demote suicidal/homocidal/genocidal/geocidal people away from positions of power.
This is the type of hope that life-interested peoples have.

Plant the seeds of tomorrow that don't have half-lives.

yoshiiAugust 16, 2016 2:28 PM

oops sorry about the failed blockquote above.
first paragraph of my previous post is not my own text. I was trying to quote blake.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.