Severing cables vandals outsmart FBI

The last one of a string of optical fiber cuts in California happened in September 16, 2015. To that date, USA Today reported 14 attacks against the Sunny State Internet privately run backbone occurred, though we could only confirm 12 of them. Either way, it became  obvious someone was deliberately trying to shut down communications, but the questions were who and why?

The FBI announced they opened an investigation and asked the public to help them identify the attackers through a press release on June 15, six days after the 10th attack happened but, to date, no one has been caught.

July 6, 2014, 9:44 p.m. near 7th St. and Grayson St. in Berkeley
July 6, 2014, 11:39 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont
July 7, 2014, 12:24 a.m. near Jones Road and Iron Horse Trail in Walnut Creek
July 7, 2014, 12:51 a.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont
July 7, 2014, 2:13 a.m. near Stockton Ave. and University Ave. in San Jose
February 24, 2015, 11:30 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont
February 24, 2015 11:30 p.m. near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont
June 8, 2015, 11:00 p.m. near Danville Blvd. and Rudgear Road in Alamo
June 8, 2015, 11:40 p.m. near Overacker Ave and Mowry Ave in Fremont
June 9, 2015, 1:38 p.m. near Jones Road and Parkside Dr. in Walnut Creek


Analyzing the dates and times of the list of attacks provided by the FBI it is possible to notice that the cuts weren’t isolated events, but that some of them happened in the same day with little hour span or almost at the same time, something that makes easy to deduce these cuts were coordinated and caused by a group of people.


July 6, 2014: The first two attacks occurred in the same day, with a difference of two hours between events. 

July 7, 2014: Cuts 3 and 4 happened the day after, but the time between acts was reduced to just 55 minutes. And cut 5 was done almost an hour and a half after cut 4.


February 24, 2015: Cuts 6 and 7 were done at the same time in two different places, so it was obviously work of two coordinated attackers.

June 8, 2015: Cuts 8 and 9 also happened in apart places and just 40 minutes apart.

June 9, 2015: Attack 10 was the first attack to happen at daylight, but apparently there wasn’t any eyewitness.

The suspects

Damage to optical fiber cables is something that can’t be avoided, vandals often cut the cables thinking they could sell it and get a reward. Level 3 reports that 7% of their Internet outages are caused by people that uses their cables for gun practices. Even vehicles are responsible for optical fiber destruction.

But when several cuts happen in the same area and at coordinated times, it seems like something bigger. Petyr Cyr, a former CIA officer, told WND that the importance the FBI and affected telecoms are giving to the severing of optical fiber cables in California shows the cuts could be a rehearsal for a terrorist attack. Which means that terrorist may be checking how long it takes to repair the high line capacities after damaging them.

Easy to vandalize

According to the FBI, the cuts happened in underground vaults and whoever severed the cables were dressed as technicians and  needed tools to cut the optical fibers’ protective layers, consisting on a though and flexible conduit

Experts said to USA Today that buried cables are just a few feet underground and their routes are marked with orange poles. Richard Doherty, research director from The Envisioneering Group, added that cables from several companies usually go down the same street, so the same attacker can enter a manhole and destroy communication services from three companies.

It’s not a secret that fiber optic cables carry huge amount of information from Internet to calls, e-mails, security cameras and even bank transactions. So, why is it so easy to damage infrastructure that’s critical for the nation? And how many other attacks have to happen before a responsible is caught?

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