Monday, June 01, 2009

Fun: Black Fiber & Black SUVs

Here's a link that's mostly just for smiles: The One Fiber Optic Cable No One on the Dig for Tysons Rail Wants to Hit.

You may have heard of "dark" fiber—that's the miles of fiber that run across the country that has never been lit; fiber that has never been used. So it's common to talk about "dark" fiber and "lit" fiber and its differing costs and availability.

But you've likely never heard of "black" fiber. That's because you're not supposed to have heard anything about it. Apparently that's the trade term for the ultra-secure fiber that the government intelligence agencies use. So it's a special kind of problem when it gets cut. That problem is apparently particularly intense around the D.C and Northern Virgina areas where the various agencies have their headquarters...

Here's a fun snippet:

This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of Tysons Corner [VA] a few years ago hit a fiber optic cable no one knew was there.

This part doesn't: Within moments, three black sport-utility vehicles drove up, a half-dozen men in suits jumped out and one said, "You just hit our line."

Whose line, you may ask? The guys in suits didn't say.... But Georgelas assumed that he was dealing with the federal government and that the cable in question was "black" wire -- a secure communications line used for some of the nation's most secretive intelligence-gathering operations.

"The construction manager was shocked," Georgelas recalled. "He had never seen a line get cut and people show up within seconds. Usually you've got to figure out whose line it is. To garner that kind of response that quickly was amazing."

...he figured that the government was involved when an AT&T crew arrived the same day to fix the line, rather than waiting days.

Spooks, apparently, care about their fiber...and get good service. :-)

2 comments:

Christoher Mitchell said...

Heh, I saw this on Schneier on Security - he added a funny line to the end of it that puts it in security context.

John said...

Great pointer Christopher! Thanks.