back to article No, Russia is not tapping into Syria's undersea internet cables

Rumours abound on odder corners of the internet that a Russian signals intelligence ship has tapped into one of the main internet cables serving Syria. Sadly for the conspiraloons, it's almost certainly not true. Various tinfoil hat nutters on Twitter – and, rather embarrassingly, Vice Media's tech offshoot Motherboard – are …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    and if the Russians did it, so what?

    Everyone's tapping undersea internet cables these days. It's what the cool kids do these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: and if the Russians did it, so what?

      I think the concern is that the Yantar might mistakenly damage everyone else's cable taps while they are installing their own :)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: and if the Russians did it, so what?

        > Yantar might mistakenly damage everyone else's cable taps while they are installing their own :)

        Can't we all just get along? :-) There's plenty of tapping room for everyone down there.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: and if the Russians did it, so what?

        ... how the Russians are planting inductive taps on underwater internet cables ...

        Ugh, these are optical cables. An inductive tap would not see the signal directly (you need to be within an optical wavelength of the fibre to see the evanescent field of the propagating signal without cutting the fibre).

        Instead, an inductive tap will measure power consumption of the intermediate amplifiers and the RF fields they induce in the power line. Thanks to the dispersion within the cable (which is not designed to carry high-frequency electrical signals), you would probably need to tap within a few meters of the repeater to have any hope of recovering the signal. Even then, you will still need to disentangle the signals coming from each of the individual repeaters within the bundle.

        Russians sure are ingenious, but they are not superhuman - this is StarTrek material.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: and if the Russians did it, so what?

          See icon, I assume it was sarcasm.

  2. Alister

    ... assuming you've managed to get through around a metre of armoured sheaths of various materials first.

    Where do you get that idea from?

    AFAIK, a modern submerged communications cable is about 30mm in diameter including the armour sheathing.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Metre-Thick Shielding

      That's one cable I wouldn't want to lay.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Metre-Thick Shielding

        Not to mention that you'd need a supertanker to be able to carry something that heavy and bulky even if you could lay it!

    2. A Known Coward

      Well, to give the benefit of the doubt, I would assume he is talking about the length of sheathing you need to remove not the thickness.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother?

    Internet service in Syria till this day is provided mostly via the incumbent Telco operator. While everyone is at everyone's throat they carefully go around their phone masts and infra which still cover various "rebel" and even ISIS held areas.

    Russia does not need Yantar to tap that, it can just have it rerouted via Tarsus.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Why bother?

      Maybe the Yantar is there to stop other countries tapping the cable?

      Russia have taps installed on the Syrian end courtesy of their client state (Syria); the US have taps installed at the Cyprus end courtesy of their client states (Cyprus, but probably operated by the UK); neither side has any desire for other players (Israel, Saudi Arabia, China) to be able to install any more taps.

  4. Caff

    landing site

    If they have a base next to the landing site it would be far easier to simply install their equipment there than mess around in the water.

    1. Cuddles

      Re: landing site

      "If they have a base next to the landing site it would be far easier to simply install their equipment there than mess around in the water."

      Forget the base even. Syria is at the very least and extremely close ally of Russia, and depending on how you look at it may even be little more than a puppet state by this point. Russia don't need to do any tapping on or off the land, they can just ask for/demand access to anything they want and Syria will happily give it to them. There's no need to install any equipment anywhere when your techs can get access to all the existing infrastructure by simply asking nicely.

  5. swat21

    Well, she's doing something

    Going by the slow speeds, odd sailing patterns, and stopping multiple times for extended periods within 10km of where 3 different cables reside, it seems the Yantar's path does have something to do with several cables; but what isn't known is why.

    Is she tapping cables? I doubt it.

    There's a new rumour yesterday that she's disabling a NATO/US Sonar network that was placed in international waters; no proof and no named sources of course.

    If RV Yantar isn't planting taps herself, she could be inspecting the cable for damage, or other countries' taps.

    Syria Telecom announced yesterday that starting today for the next 9 days they are going to be shutting down one of their undersea cables for emergency maintenance. Could this be related to something the Yantar found attached to a cable?

    To recap; there's a Russian Navy auxiliary ship, with the best deep sea sensors in the world, off the coast of Syria, overtly conducting operations in International waters. There is nothing "wrong" with that... but it sure does make you wonder what she's up to when she crawls along at 0.5kn for several kilometers, along a path that seems to be on top of where an undersea cable is supposed to go.

    1. Steffan Watkins

      Re: Well, she's doing something

      Referenced Syrian Telecom emergency cable repair article

      (roughly translated with Google Translate)

      "Syrian Telecom announced damaged a major international feeder cables of the Internet in Syria, which could adversely affect the online service where for ten consecutive days.

      The company said today, Tuesday October 18, that the damage to the cable network operator called marine cable to carry out maintenance work on "immediate and unexpected," adding that the Internet will stop working between 19 and until October 28 th, in some provinces."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, she's doing something

      There's a new rumour yesterday that she's disabling a NATO/US Sonar network

      You may be right. They are deploying the fleet there in about a week. Aircraft carrier (which actually is no match to the two NATO ones in the vicinity and looks like a mere backup for the existing land airbase in Syria), Peter The Great nuclear rocket battlecruiser (this one alone can match a NATO carrier group in fire power) and a support group (most of it also anti-ship + anti-aircraft missile carrying) in addition to the existing Slava class Varyag + its support group on duty off the Syrian coast. I would not be surprised if Varyag's sistership Moskva joins the party too.

      That is a ridiculous amount of firepower. Probably just in case so Clinton (as predicted by a lot of people) has as many second thoughts as possible before risking WW3 by intervening in Syria.

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: Well, she's doing something

        Not really that impressive. The aircraft carrier is always followed by a fleet tug as her engines are very unreliable - she is something of a dockyard queen. Hence why the Chinese completely replaced the engines in their copy.

        Peter the Great has a naval version of the S-300 SAM system which is quite impressive for defensive purposes but only carries relatively few SSM's - each of which is dangerous, but mainly to ships that aren't aware that they're being attacked.

        So it's a nice little display of force somewhat akin to a small USN carrier group, but not the ZOMFG Super Deth Carrier Powah mentioned in the media.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Well, she's doing something

      "the best deep sea sensors in the world"

      I'm sure they're pretty good, but I'm sure plenty of other countries have good sensors of their own, and none of them will be publishing the specifications. There's no way to say they're the "best in the world".

      Lets go with "presumably very good sensors".

  6. Anonymous South African Coward

    Keep in mind that, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

  7. Captain DaFt

    Why repeat effort?

    All the Russians need to do is use the CIA's taps using the logon credentials they found "hacking" into the CIA via the super secret "admin - password" combo.

  8. DMadory

    Routing instability vs outages

    Dyn's assertion was about BGP routing instability not internet outages. This instability was attributed to problems on one of the submarine cables connecting Syria. Routing instability might not appear as a drop in traffic in Akamai's data, so Akamai's assertion isn't necessarily in conflict with Dyn's.

    Syrian Telecom just began a 10-day period of maintenance taking one of their submarine cables out of commission:

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