Russia threatens millions as it runs rampant in Irish waters: ‘No idea what’s going on’

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It comes after Ireland disclosed that it was not protecting the subsea cables due to a gap in its defence policy. They say it has left the data connectors open to attack and vulnerable to espionage. The apparent issue merged during a parliamentary debate on defence last week between Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, and John Brady, Sinn Fein’s spokesman on defence.

Mr Coveney said the sea cables “are not at the moment the legal responsibility of the Irish navy service,” but acknowledged the defence forces had limited subsurface surveillance capabilities.

It emerged that the cables are the responsibility of the gardia force, which is responsible for the enforcement of the 2004 Maritime Security Act.

But they reportedly have no capability to fulfil the role.

There are currently four cables connecting the island to the US and eight linking to Britain.

Ireland is expected to become directly connected to Norway, Denmark, Iceland and France in the coming years.

Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google rely on the cables to transmit vast amounts of data from Irish servers around the world.

According to the Times, Ireland has detected a significant increase in the activities of Russia’s armed forces in Irish territory in the past year.

The Yantar, a Russian spy ship built to carry out clandestine undersea missions, was monitored off the Donegal-Mayo coastline in August.

And in July, a large ship was discovered engaged in similar activities close to a subsea cable.

Russian submarines are also said to be operating off the west coast targeting undersea cables by placing devices near them to intercept data and communications.

Mr Brady said: “This is an issue of huge importance.

“There are vessels entering Ireland’s exclusive economic zone which we don’t have the ability to monitor.

“We have no idea what is happening below the surface.

“We don’t know if devices are being fitted to these data cables or if they are being interfered with.”

He said that the gardai are “not able to conduct operations at sea but neither are the navy due to the lack of resources and ongoing issues over recruitment”.

Mr Brady added: “We have a sea mass ten times the size of our landmass, which on most days has only one naval vessel out at sea due to lack of resources.

“Can you imagine the gardai patrolling the country in a single squad car?”

Keir Giles, an expert in Russian information warfare, said: “Russia has undertaken an intensive programme of probing for vulnerabilities around the world, not just under the sea but also satellites, fibre-optic links and other telecoms networks.

“Russia will look for the most vulnerable and easily exploited points on networks to achieve its objectives whether or not that is actually located in the target country. So unguarded networks are an open invitation to Russian intervention.”

And John Sipher, the former head of the CIA’s national clandestine service, said it was “naive” to believe Russia would not take advantage of access to these undersea cables.

He said: “Russian intelligence and subversion is ongoing and relentless.

“No amount of engagement or appeasement works, or has ever worked.

“Putin is engaged in a form of political warfare against the West and stealing information is just one part of a larger attack.

“If western nations don’t work together and take their security seriously, the Kremlin will continue to subvert and weaken their adversaries from within.

“When deterrence doesn’t work countries need to defend themselves and the western democracies.

“Failing to do so will find democracies weak and divided when it really counts.

“Information and intelligence is a weapon and the Kremlin is intent on using it.”

The Irish government has been contacted for comment.

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