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E.U. urged to use automation to protect underground Internet systems


European Union member states should consider the benefits of automated information systems to prevent damage to their underground Internet infrastructures, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security said in a report.

Information exchanged on the Internet is possible because of a physical infrastructure composed of network equipment and cables such as fiberoptics, with the majority of these cables usually laid underground for aesthetic reasons and to improve their security, Brussels-based ENISA said in the report, issued Tuesday.

However, there have been a large number of Internet outages in recent years because of cable cuts, according to the report, “Protection of Underground Electronic Communications Infrastructure: The use of automated information systems for damage prevention against civil work.”

While some of these are because of intentional human activities, including terrorism, “it should be pointed out that the majority of such incidents happen unintentionally, as a result of human error,” and a third party is involved in most cases, the report said. This occurs most often during civil projects because excavators usually do not have sufficient information about the existing underground infrastructures and/or the exact location of this equipment, according to the report.

The report says several E.U. member states, including Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, have developed specific tools to prevent the disruption of underground electronic communication infrastructure. The report notes that digital maps with databases, which contain information about underground infrastructure “are key elements in the currently operating information systems dedicated for underground infrastructure damage prevention.”

The report recommends analyzing the reasons behind cable cuts; evaluating the benefits of an automated information exchange tool to protect underground infrastructure; developing a tool that relies on existing tools and experience; encouraging collaboration in this effort by stakeholders including infrastructure owners; promoting the tool's use; evaluating the security policy for its operation and management; and evaluating the tool's sustainability.