Harry Buckle, author of ‘Just One Day’ has warned that the cutting of the underwater cables between Ireland and the UK could cause carnage. It comes after the Yantar, a Russian spy ship built to carry out clandestine undersea missions, was spotted off the Donegal-Mayo coastline in August, prompting fears that the undersea cables could be tampered with. Mr Buckle told Express.co.uk: “Chopping things, cutting cables and buggering up a country’s economics for a while, yes it can happen.
“Yes, it will do things like chucking down all the ATM machines and gas stations and things like that for hours, days, or weeks.”
Russia’s Yantar vessel, which had its transponder switched off, is said to be loaded with manned and remote-operated submersibles which are used to attach listening devices to undersea cables that carry internet traffic.
That vessel was monitored close to a subsea cable.
The subsea cable network is part of Ireland’s critical infrastructure, carrying huge volumes of internet traffic – emails, images, files, data and communications – between the state, Europe and the United States.
Eight of those cables link to Britain, and four to the US.
But Russia cutting those cables is not the only threat.
Mr Buckle warned: “What are they listening to? All the secret cable travel just under the road and there are a million manholes on Bodmin Moore that on a dark night someone could get into and stick some sort of modern recording unit into.
“Militarily we’re probably well protected, and security-wise we’re probably well protected, but with reference to commercial data, there must be a billion emails, designs and patents.
“Covid has probably made the security, with working from home, a lot worse.
“Commercially they could be lifting information, that’s for sure.”
It comes as Ireland disclosed that it has not been protecting those subsea cables due to a gap in its defence policy.
It did indeed warn this has left them vulnerable to espionage as the data connectors are exposed.
In a parliamentary debate, Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said the underwater cables “are not at the moment the legal responsibility of the Irish navy service”,
But he did say that the 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.
Keir Giles, an expert in Russian information warfare who works with Chatham House, the London think tank, has said that governments around the world understand the threat of Russia’s interest in subsea cables.
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He said: “Russia has undertaken an intensive programme of probing for vulnerabilities around the world, not just under the sea but also satellites, fibre-optic links and other telecoms networks.
“Russia will look for the most vulnerable and easily exploited points on networks to achieve its objectives whether or not that is actually located in the target country.
“So unguarded networks are an open invitation to Russian intervention.”