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Submarine cables are the new battlefield between Russia and China: the powers want to control the growing internet routes under the sea

The phenomenon of submarine cables is attracting the attention of the governments of Beijing and Moscow. While in 2016 15 of these gigantic cables went into operation under the sea, in 2020 the number of new cables almost doubled, reaching 28. “A great growth that shows how we are depending more and more on these infrastructures”, explains a report of the organization Atlantic Council.

Efforts to buy or influence the companies that own these cables are increasing, the report notes. These submarine cables, like the recent Grace Hopper that has arrived in Bilbao, are a backbone for internet traffic and also a delicate security point.

60% of submarine cables are in private hands

Submarine Cables
Submarine Cables

Imagen: TeleGeography Blog

According to the report, 59% of submarine cables are in the hands of private companies, while “only” 20% of these cables are state-owned or managed by the governments of the different countries.

And it is precisely this percentage that could change in the coming years, since the interest of the powers to control and manage these cables is increasing.

How are the submarine cables that carry the Internet from one continent to another?

The private companies that manage these cables could add back doors or allow certain spy agencies monitor the traffic that runs through these undersea cables. A fear that is leading different countries to focus on these cables as part of their cybersecurity strategy, points out the Atlantic Council.

Data Cables Submarinos
Data Cables Submarinos

Google is the private technology company that has activated the most submarine cables in recent years, but we can also find Chinese companies such as China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom or Huawei Marine.

As Justin Sherman, author of the report, points out, These Chinese companies have started up to 44 submarine cable projects this year. Some of them more ambitious as part of the China Belt and Road Initiative and others with a more local focus such as improving the network through Hong Kong.

On the part of Russia, the state company Rostelecom has activated cables to connect outlying islands of Russia with the mainland and Europe.

“It’s easy to think of the internet as abstract because of the cloud and cyberspace, but it still relies on routers and cables and that affects the way data circulates around the world. This is important because if you have more data traveling through your cables or your country, you have more opportunities for espionage, “the report concludes.

Vía | The Record