The Stack Archive

AT&T offers $250k reward to find the California fibre-optic ripper

Wed 16 Sep 2015

In the latest in a series of disruptive and well thought-out vandalisations, a critical AT&T fibre-optic cable has been slashed in the city of Livermore in the San Francisco Bay Area, prompting telecommunications company AT&T to offer a reward of $250,000 to anyone who can offer information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or group responsible.

The cable outage seems to have been effected by an intruder – possibly dressed as an AT&T worker, according to the FBI – gaining access to the cable via a manhole in Alameda county, where three fibre-optic cables were cut, affecting cable services and latency in the Northern California region. The incident has been preceded by a spate of similar attacks in the last twelve months.

The FBI believes that the work requires expert knowledge and specialist tools, leading to speculation that a disgruntled or ex-employee might be worthy of investigation.

Peter Kranz, CEO of Internet provider Unwired Ltd, commented that “pretty much everybody who has a large network in the Bay Area” would have been affected by the damaged cables. The main areas affected were Sacramento and Rocklin, according to Wave Broadband spokesman Mark Peterson.

The FBI confirms that other areas in California where the attacks have occurred include Berkeley, San Jose, Walnut Creek and Fremont.

Though the cables in the Alameda county incident were repaired within four hours, some speculation has arisen that the systematic nature of the ‘cable ripper’ attacks indicates a methodical testing of response to similar incidents.

California seems to be developing a strange obsession with cable-related crime. In 2013 an assault on a California power station was preceded by the cutting of cable lines, though this is more in line with traditional criminal preparation for the invasion of premises; but in 2009 the ‘ripper-style’ clipping of fibre-optic cables at the outskirts of San Jose caused a loss of service for 50,000 people in the counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Benito.


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