Vocus Asks for Better Submarine Cable Protection

By Richard Chirgwin, iTnews
September 14, 2023

Vocus calls for updated submarine cable protection in Australia and advocates for greater Pacific region involvement.Vocus has called for new submarine cable protection zones, to reflect the burgeoning deployment of cables away from the existing zones in Sydney and Perth.

The telco said that no new zones had been declared since 2007, despite cables being landed elsewhere.

“There are now landings in Darwin, Port Hedland, and Maroochydore; with proposals to land cables in Melbourne and Brisbane,” Vocus said in a submission to the government’s cyber security strategy Discussion paper recently made public [pdf].

Vocus also wants stronger protection and monitoring of cables, particularly against deliberate actions, noting that “Australia’s cyber security strategy should not overlook the physical elements of the internet.”

“Access to, and influence over, submarine cable infrastructure can have direct effects on security”, the submission states.

“Intentional and unintentional human activity” also poses a threat, including “deliberately cutting cables, tapping them, and cyber attacks”.

The submission noted that “multiple parts of the submarine supply chain can potentially be compromised”, with effects that could include data interception, surveillance, and traffic disruption.

Pacific island cables good for natsec

Vocus also suggests Australia’s national security would be well served if the country put more support into submarine data cables in the Pacific region.

“Countries with only one cable are especially vulnerable to outages, as was seen in Tonga when its sole submarine cable was damaged by a volcanic eruption in 2022, taking almost six weeks to repair,” the submission noted.

“Australia should continue to fund and co-fund strategic submarine cable projects in the Indo-Pacific, as recommended by security policy experts, working together with countries such as Japan, US, India, the UK, and the EU.”

Vocus also suggests that for Pacific islands that lack their own data centre infrastructure, Australia could take advantage of new submarine cables and its existing strong sovereign data centre security standards to offer those services to other nations.

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