HSI Agents Stop Cyberattack on Hawaii Submarine Cable

HSI says it was able to disrupt a cyberattack of a critical undersea cable, adding the hackers sought to target “infrastructure on Oahu."By Hawaii News Now Staff
April 13, 2022

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Homeland Security Investigations says it was able to disrupt a cyberattack of a critical undersea cable, adding the hackers sought to target “infrastructure on Oahu.”

The cable links Hawaii and Pacific to critical telecommunications, including internet and cell phones.

HSI said its agents, based on a tip from their counterparts on the mainland, were able to disrupt last week a “significant breach involving a private company’s services” associated with the undersea cable.

“We then discovered credentials that belong to individuals here in in Hawaii, and we’re pretty significant to their operations,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge, John Tobon.

The special agent in charge said the cyber-thief was able to access critical information at a private company, but was stopped before any damage could be done.

“So it could have been something to just create havoc, in other words, just shut down communications,” Tobon explained. “Or it could have been used to target individuals ransomware type schemes.

There are eight submarine cables that run through Hawaii connecting the mainland to foreign countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Hawaii Broadband Strategy Officer, Burt Lum said fortunately, there are contingencies if one gets compromised.

“If the bad guys got to one of the Trans-Pacific systems, there’s enough route diversity that he could still provide communications through another another viable route,” Lum explained.

Lum said in order to better protect these data lines, there needs to be more cooperation between the government and private companies.

“I don’t think it exists, but I think there is an opportunity to collaborate and work together on a solution,” said Lum.

While there was no damage to the telecom infrastructure or immediate threat, Tobon said what’s troubling is this isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last cyberattack.

“Even as we sit here and we speak, there are others that are being attempted,” Tobon explained. “We want the general public to be aware that cybersecurity is everybody’s business.”

HSI said it was able to identify an international hacking group as responsible for the attack. HSI agents and international law enforcement partners in several countries were able to make an arrest.

No further information will be released, pending prosecution.

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