Outside plant protection, fiber cuts, interwebz down oh noes!

Patrick W. Gilmore patrick at ianai.net
Thu Apr 9 19:43:11 CDT 2009

On Apr 9, 2009, at 6:04 PM, Charles Wyble wrote:

> Seriously though I want to start some discussion around outside  
> plant protection. This isn't the middle of the ocean or desert after  
> all.
> There were multiple fiber cuts in a major metropolitan area,  
> resulting in the loss of critical infrastructure necessary to many  
> peoples daily lives (though twitter stayed up so it's all good). :)  
> It would appear that this was a deliberate act by one or more  
> individuals, who seemed to have a very good idea of where to strike  
> which resulted in a low cost, low effort attack that yielded  
> significant results.
> So allow me to think out loud for a minute....
> 1) Why wasn't the fiber protected by some sort of hardened/locked  
> conduit? Is this possible? Does it add extensive cost or hamper  
> normal operation?

This was supposedly an inside job, and I even heard the cabinets were  
locked.  How do you stop an employee with the key from opening a  
lock?  (See #2.)

> 2) Why didn't an alarm go off that someone had entered the area? It  
> was after business hours, presumably not in response to a trouble  
> ticket, and as such a highly suspicious action. Does it make sense  
> for these access portals to have some sort of alarm? I mean there is  
> fiber running through and as such it could carry the signaling.  
> Would this be a massive cost addition during construction?

Possibly, and yes.

> 3) From what I understand it's not trivial to raise a manhole cover.  
> Most likely can't be done by one person. Can they be locked? Or were  
> the carriers simply relying on obscurity/barrier to entry?

Probably, and who knows?

How much did this cost the telcos involved?  Probably nearly nothing.   
How much would it cost them to do what you suggest in #2?  Probably  
1,000,000 times nearly nothing, _at_least_.  Guess what the telcos  
involved will choose?  Hell, you would too in their place.


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