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Security Experts Fear Google's Trans-Pacific Fiber Optic Project Might Fall Prey to the NSA

September 03, 2014

Security Experts Fear Google's Trans-Pacific Fiber Optic Project Might Fall Prey to the NSA

By Matt Paulson
TMCnet Contributing Writer

For some time now, Google (News - Alert) has been planning on constructing a massive fiber optic cable to stretch across the entire Pacific Ocean, connecting the United States and Japan with a high speed data pathway. Expected to transmit up to 60 terabits of data per second, the cable is supported by Google partners like SingTel (News - Alert) and China Telecom Global and is operating under the name FASTER. However, some security analysts fear that a cable transmitting this much information is a prime target for spies from the NSA or even more dangerous hacking groups to tap into, according to Venture Beat.

When questioned about Google's fiber optic cable, a former NSA official who wished to remain anonymous stated that it was, “Easy to tap for sure. If its US to JP, then no need to tap in the middle obviously, just look behind the big red door.” Google could even be forced to comply with the government agency, and any area designated as off-limits by the company could hide secret government tapping equipment.

Already, Google has invested more than $300 million to start rolling out the fiber optics necessary for the trans-pacific FASTER project. In addition to the physical cables, special glass-like cases wrapped in Kevlar are needed to protect the cables from the corrosive effect of the ocean as well as passing animals.

The NSA is no stranger to tapping undersea cables, and even used specially designed submarines during the Cold War for that purpose. Today, such a fiber optic cable would contain far more than just Russian military communications – it would include massive amounts of consumer metadata, including cell phone traffic, emails, passwords and far more.

The submarines of the past are now obsolete due to the way data can be collected through fiber optics.

However, Google is one of the few companies with security measures on their fiber optic networks capable of resisting the NSA, short of a court order. This makes it less likely that Google would unknowingly leak data over to the NSA, but the current climate of secrecy has damaged the NSA's vision of trust. Only time will tell how vulnerable Google's FASTER cables will eventually become.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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