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Major Cyberattack on Underwater Communications Cable Thwarted

April 12, 2022, 3:04 PM HST
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A recent attempt by hackers to attack an underwater cable that is critical to communications in Hawai‘i was thwarted by federal agents.

According to a news release, special agents with Homeland Security Investigations in Honolulu disrupted a cyberattack on a cable linking the islands and the Pacific Region to telecommunications, including internet, cable service and cellphones. The breach specifically targeted infrastructure on O‘ahu.

“This is only one of the many examples of cyber-incidents that HSI has responded to in Hawai‘i and the Pacific Region,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Tobon in the release. “Not only do we aggressively pursue these bad actors, but we also provide significant support to the private sector victims.”

Damage or disruption to critical telecommunications infrastructure was prevented, and there is no immediate threat. According to the news release, an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations identified an international hacking group responsible for the attack.

“HSI agents and international law enforcement partners in several countries were able to make an arrest,” the news release said. “No further information will be released pending prosecution.”

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The release said that based on a tip from HSI agents on the mainland last week, an HSI Honolulu Cyber Incident Response Team disrupted the attempted breach that involved a private company’s servers associated with an oceanic undersea cable. Agents immediately implemented protocols to prevent any further unauthorized access.

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“HSI Honolulu is on the frontlines of the cyber fight every day, and our expertise in this area is unmatched,” Tobon added in the release. “We live in paradise, but that does not mean there is a diminished threat, particularly in the cyber world. Our goal is to interrupt the hackers before serious damage is done.”

Homeland Security Investigations is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats.

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