Ukraine invasion fears as Putin faces Covid backlash in Russia
While experts warn that Russian troops look poised for an imminent invasion of Ukraine, there are also fears that the Kremlin could raise the alarm in another way. Harry Buckle, the author of ‘Just One Day’, told Express.co.uk that Moscow might be able to access a network of undersea cables that carry huge volumes of Internet traffic – emails, images, files, data and communications between Europe and the US.
His warning comes after Russia’s Yantar vessel, built to carry out clandestine missions, was spotted near the Donegal-Mayo coastline by Ireland’s network of subsea cables in August.
Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google rely on the cables to transmit vast amounts of data from Irish servers around the world.
Eight of those link to Britain, and four to the US.
The vessel had its transponder switched off and is said to be loaded with manned and remote-operated submersibles which are used to attach listening devices to the undersea cables.
Mr Buckle told Express.co.uk: “What are they listening to?
“All the secret cables travel just under the road.
Vladimir Putin could be threatening the subsea cable network
Subsea cables carry huge volumes of internet traffic
“There’s a million manholes on Bodmin Moore that on a dark night that someone could get into and stick some sort of modern recording unit into.”
But Mr Buckle suspected this is not a major security threat.
He said: “But one would assume that the military and security services are suitably encrypted.
“I think militarily we’re probably well protected, and security-wise we’re probably well protected.”
While Mr Buckle thought we were safe in that respect, he warned they are a real risk that classified information could be lifted.
He told Express.co.uk: “But with reference to commercial data, there must be a billion emails and designs and patents and things, all these 10,000 people that are working on Rolls-Royce micronuclear plants, they’ve got expertise around the world.
“Covid actually has probably made working from home, the security, a lot worse.
A Russian vessel was spotted near Ireland’s subsea cable network
“So I think commercially I think they could be lifting information, that’s for sure.”
This also comes after Ireland said it is unable to protect these cables.
During a parliamentary debate, a gap in Irish defence policy revealed that the data connectors are in fact vulnerable to espionage.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said the underwater cables “are not at the moment the legal responsibility of the Irish navy service”.
While he said defence forces had limited subsurface surveillance capabilities, the cables are supposed to be the garda force’s responsibility, under 2004 Maritime Security Act.
But it reportedly has no capability to fulfil the role.
John Brady, Sinn Fein’s spokesman on defence, said: “There are vessels entering Ireland’s exclusive economic zone which we don’t have the ability to monitor.
“We have no idea what is happening below the surface. We don’t know if devices are being fitted to these data cables or if they are being interfered with.”
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Russian troops are reportedly preparing to invade Ukraine
John Sipher, a former CIA officer and now a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said it was “naive” to think that Russia would not tamper with these cables.
He said: “Russian intelligence and subversion is ongoing and relentless. No amount of engagement or appeasement works, or has ever worked.
“Putin is engaged in a form of political warfare against the West and stealing information is just one part of a larger attack.
“If western nations don’t work together and take their security seriously, the Kremlin will continue to subvert and weaken their adversaries from within.”
This comes as President Joe Biden is reportedly preparing a package of sanctions to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
One US official said there appears to be an “intelligence gap” between the US and its allies.
They said: “Many allies were not convinced that serious things were happening.
“We were surprised about this [intelligence] gap — how and why the US were seeing things that we were not seeing.”
The US has warned that the Kremlin is preparing to deploy 100 battalion tactical groups of roughly 175,000 military personnel.
The Kremlin has consistently denied that it plans to invade Ukraine, blaming the increasing hostility instead on US and NATO’s support for Kiev.