Cyber-criminals eye fiber tapping as hacking alternative

Cyber-criminals have reportedly begun to consider fiber tapping as a viable alternative to hacking heavily shielded systems.

“You can buy a non-intrusive tapping device on eBay for about $1,000,” Christian Illmer, senior director at ADVA Optical Networking, told ComputingUK.

 “[So] the data stream isn’t interrupted, you just take some of the light.”

According to Illmer, fiber tapping is notoriously difficult to detect.

“If a user were monitoring the link, they would see only a very slightly higher level of loss, perhaps from 20dB to 21dB. This is certainly not sufficient to trigger many alarms,” he explained.

“[Still], if you’re tapping into a link, you have to know what you’re looking for – because there could be as many as 80 data streams.”

However, Illmer noted that cyber-criminals can easily wade through the fast-rushing streams of data by simply deploying a protocol analyzer.

The sniffer would then facilitate the targeted monitoring and interception of relevant information. 

“[Sure], you can also use optical time-domain reflectometers (OTDRs) to see where an illegal tap is. 

“But it [does] take time to react, and during that [interim] you’re losing your data…And the consequences of [such] a breach could be devastating.”