North American Network Operators Group

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Re: Backbone Infrastructure and Secrecy

  • From: Stephen Sprunk
  • Date: Wed Jul 09 15:14:04 2003

Thus spake <[email protected]>
> In the USA in the past year I've travelled through half a dozen airports
> and the most intense searching scrutiny was when leaving the smallest
> ones, Eugene OR and Memphis TN.

I've been to an airport (MLU) where the TSA employees even outnumbered the
passengers by a fair margin.  Your tax dollars at work!

Of course, point defenses are only useful at the weakest points...  Who's
going to try sneaking a bomb or weapon past hand-searches, X-ray machines,
dogs, etc. when you can climb an unguarded, unmonitored 8ft fence, walk
right up to a bunch of planes sitting on the tarmac, and plant your package?

> I don't believe that it would be as easy as you say for someone to open
> manholes, cut cables (very thick cables of glass and tough plastics), then
> run on to the next location. Certainly, in London, anything like this
> be picked up on CCTV and the police would be rapidly dispatched to
> investigate.Yes, the single points of failure abound, but getting access
> them for evil purposes is not as easy as it looks.

If you drove up in a telco service truck and wore the appropriate uniform,
it's unlikely you'd ever get challenged in the US.

In Dallas, most utility manholes are "locked" but it's a common key for all
utilities.  In the denser areas every single block has power, gas, and phone
interconnect/tap vaults accessible from the street or sidewalk.  The trick
isn't getting access; the trick is figuring out which of the hundreds of
thousands of manholes has something worth attacking.

As someone else noted, the local "Call Before You Dig" folks are far more
useful (and accurate) than any printed maps you're likely to get from the
utilities.  If you're looking to do damage with a backhoe, they'll come
paint a bright-orange bulls-eye on your target for free.


Stephen Sprunk         "God does not play dice."  --Albert Einstein
CCIE #3723         "God is an inveterate gambler, and He throws the
K5SSS        dice at every possible opportunity." --Stephen Hawking